South Carolina Grand Jury Indicts Former Officer in Shooting Death

shooting, indictment, Illinois Criminal Defense AttorneyIn the wake of protests and civil unrest following police-related deaths in Ferguson, Missouri, and New York City, another high profile shooting death exploded into the public consciousness. Thanks largely to a bystander’s cell phone video, the police shooting of an African American man in North Charleston, South Carolina, captured headlines for several weeks beginning in early April. While the involved officer was fired and authorities promised an investigation, the future of the case was relatively uncertain until earlier this week when a grand jury officially indicted the former officer on a murder charge.

The indictment is related to a series of events on April 4th that left a 50 year old man dead following what seemed to be a relatively routine traffic stop. The officer’s dashboard camera indicated that initial stop for broken taillight was conducted without incident. A few minutes later, however, the driver emerged from his vehicle and attempted to get away. A cell phone video shot by a passerby showed the officer and driver involved in a physical altercation, after which the driver broke free again and ran. The officer fired eight times at the driver, ultimately killing him.

The cell phone video, understandably, went viral very quickly, prompting peaceful demonstrations and calls for police reform. The officer was fired from the police force while charges were pending, but has maintained that he feared for his life during the altercation. This week’s indictment by the grand jury ensures that he will stand trial for his alleged actions that day. If convicted of murder, the former officer faces from 30 years to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Scarlett Wilson, solicitor for the Ninth Judicial Circuit in South Carolina, has cautioned concerned citizens that the widely-distributed video of the events is not enough to guarantee a conviction. “Just because you have video in this case, it doesn’t mean it’s the be-all and end-all,” she said in a press conference. A trial date has yet to be determined.

The events in North Charleston serve to demonstrate the importance of following the law, even for law enforcement officials. While police officers may be afforded certain protections, they are still accountable for their actions and when legal lines are crossed, penalties and prosecution are possible.

If you are facing criminal charges, you deserve a lawyer who understands how to protect your right. Contact an experienced criminal defense attorney in Chicago today for a free consultation. Attorney Hal M. Garfinkel has helped hundreds of clients in his career and is ready and willing to serve you.

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