Former North Charleston police officer, Michael Slager, plead guilty to violating the civil rights of Walter Scott, the unarmed motorist he fatally shot. Slager entered the deal a week ahead of jury selection for his federal trial.
In April 2015, Slater shot and killed Scott during a traffic stop that escalated to a foot pursuit. The imagery of Scott’s last moments went viral and sparked civil unrest just months after the high-profile shootings of Michael Brown, Tamir Rice and Freddie Gray–other unarmed Black civilians.
On Tuesday, Slager’s lawyer, Andrew Savage, announced his client would plead guilty in federal court to deprivation of rights under color of law, NBC News reports. The charge carries a maximum penalty of life in prison and a minimum of no prison time.
“We hope that Michael’s acceptance of responsibility will help the Scott family as they continue to grieve their loss,” defense lawyers said in a statement.
Slager’s decision to plead guilty marks a shift in rhetoric–for the past two years the former officer argued that he shot Scott in self-defense.
According to The Post & Courier, a federal judge will now determine whether Slager committed murder or a lesser crime in a separate trial date that will be scheduled in the next coming weeks.
In December, a state judge declared a mistrial after jurors were deadlocked in their decision.