By Harriet McLeod
CHARLESTON, S.C. (Reuters) – A white police officer charged with murder in the shooting death of an unarmed black man after a South Carolina traffic stop was released from jail on $500,000 bail on Monday.
Michael Slager, a North Charleston police officer who was fired after the incident, was jailed since his April arrest in the death of Walter Scott, 50. The fatal shooting was caught on video by a bystander and intensified a national debate on police treatment of minorities.
Judge Clifton Newman set bail for Slager, 34, at $500,000 on Monday, and the Charleston County Sheriff’s Office said he was released from jail. Newman scheduled Slager’s trial for Oct. 31.
Newman granted bail after noting that Slager’s trial would not begin until late this year. The delay was caused by prosecutors preparing for the trial of Dylann Roof, accused of killing nine people in a church shooting in Charleston in June, the Post and Courier newspaper reported.
Slager will be under house arrest, said Justin Bamberg, an attorney for the Scott family who reached a wrongful death and civil rights settlement with North Charleston and its police department late last year.
Bamberg said Scott’s family was not happy that Slager had gotten bond.
“As far as him being out (of jail), it does hurt. It hurts a mother and father who have to go visit their child in a cemetery, he said. “Everybody is just looking forward to and preparing for the trial.”
The judge had denied Slager bail in September, saying that releasing him “would constitute an unreasonable danger to the community.”
Defense attorneys argued that Slager was not a flight risk and had been violently attacked by Scott in a confrontation after Scott fled a routine traffic stop and Slager chased him.
Prosecutors said Scott was trying to get away from Slager, not attack him. They accused the officer of tampering with evidence by retrieving his stun gun from where it had fallen and placing it near Scott’s body.
(Reporting by Harriet McLeod; Writing by Colleen Jenkins; Editing by Peter Cooney and Cynthia Osterman)