On Wednesday–as if it had a choice–the police department in North Charleston, South Carolina announced it had fired a white officer who shot and killed an unarmed black man on a routine traffic stop. By all accounts, this may have faded into the ether if not for a cell phone video showing the cop, Michael Slager, emptying his pistol into Walter Scott while Scott was running away. Instead, Slager is now in jail on charges of first-degree murder. On Wednesday afternoon, the man who caught that video spoke out for the first time.
In an exclusive interview with NBC Nightly News interim anchor Lester Holt, Feidin Santana said he was on his way to work when he saw Slager and Scott struggling. He pulled out his cell phone when he heard a Taser popping–not knowing that he was about to record one of the most chilling acts of police brutality in recent memory. Watch the interview here.
Santana recalled that Slager and Scott were “down on the floor,” though from where he was standing, Slager had control of the situation. As Santana started recording, Scott seemed to be “trying just to get away from the Taser.” Slager claimed in his police report that Scott tried to take his Taser. However, Santana said that Scott did not at any point try to take the Taser. As the video shows, while Scott was running away Slager fired eight shots into his back.
Knowing immediately that he had “something on my hands,” Santana turned the video over to Scott’s family. He felt it was the only option, since if something like this happened to a member of his family, “I would like to know the truth.” Shortly afterward, the video went public, and Slager was in an orange jumpsuit.
Santana doesn’t consider himself a hero. He thinks Slager made “a bad decision,” and Scott didn’t deserve what happened to him. But there’s little doubt that had it not been for that video, it might have taken a lot longer for Slager to be brought to justice–that is, if he had been brought to justice at all. For my money, someone needs to get Santana a medal. Like it or not, he is a hero.