“NBC Nightly News” anchor Lester Holt traveled to South Carolina to conduct the first interview with the man who recorded the fatal police shooting of apparently unarmed black man, Walter Scott.
In the exclusive interview, which aired Wednesday evening, Holt spoke with Feidin Santana near the grassy area where he captured the graphic cellphone footage. The video showed Michael Slager, 33, shooting 50-year-old Scott eight times, as he ran away from the white police officer in North Charleston on Saturday.
Officer Slager said he feared for his life because Scott had taken his stun gun in a scuffle after a traffic stop for a broken tail light, as TheWrap previously reported.
Slager was swiftly charged with murder after the video surfaced Tuesday and has since been fired from the North Charleston Police Department.
When asked how he came to witness the alleged murder, Santana told Holt, “I was walking to my job and saw Mr. Scott — rest in peace — and I saw police chasing after him. I was on a phone call and decided to go over there to see what was going on.
“They were down on the floor, before I started recording. The police had control of the situation, he had control of Scott,” he said.
“Scott was trying to get away from the Taser — you can hear the sound. I believe he was just trying to get away,” Santana said. “As you can see in the video, the police officer just shot him. I knew right away I had something important in my hands,” he said of the footage that was recorded on his Samsung phone.
Santana ultimately turned the video over to attorneys for Scott’s family. “They were very emotional when that happened,” he said. As for Officer Slager being charged with murder, “that is nothing to feel happy about, he has his family, but you make your decisions and have to pay for them. Mr. Scott didn’t deserve this.”
In a press conference earlier on Wednesday, that was repeatedly interrupted by angry protestors, police could not explain why Slager stopped next to Scott’s handcuffed body and appeared to drop something, which many have speculated was a Taser to make it look like he had a weapon.
It is also not clear why the video doesn’t show officers performing CPR, which the initial police report said they had. “There are questions that I have in my mind that I can’t answer right now,” Chief Eddie Driggers of the North Charleston Police Department said.
Scott’s mother, Judy, told NBC News that her son was gunned down “as if he was an animal.” His parents think that he ran from the officer because he owned money for back child support, but that he did not reach for the officer’s Taser.
North Charleston Mayor Keith Summey announced Wednesday that he has ordered body cameras for the police force and that every officer on the street will wear one after a policy is established and the force is trained.
Summey also revealed that Slager’s wife is eight months pregnant and the city will continue paying for her medical insurance until the baby is born. Slager is currently being held without bond at Charleston County Jail.
A murder conviction in the state could lead to the death penalty or up to 30 years to life in prison, according to the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division.
Watch the video of Holt’s interview.