The bystander who shot video apparently showing a white police officer fatally shooting an unarmed black man, said he knew right away the profound significance of the chilling footage he’d recorded.
“As you can see in the video, the police officer just shot him in the back,” said Feidin Santana, who used his cellphone to film the dramatic and tragic encounter.
“I knew right away, I had something on my hands,” he told NBC television.
As a result of the recording which in just 24 hours has been seen around the world, the police officer, 33-year-old Michael Slager, was charged with murder on Tuesday, and could face a sentence of up to life in prison or the death penalty.
Slager stands accused of shooting Walter Scott, 50, repeatedly in the back after a scuffle that began with a traffic stop for a broken tail light in North Charleston, South Carolina.
Santana said that after filming the incident, he immediately became fearful of his own safety.
“I won’t deny I knew the magnitude of this, and I even thought about erasing the video,” the 23-year old said in a separate interview with MSNBC television.
“I felt that my life with this information might be in some danger. I thought about erasing the video and getting out of the community, leaving North Charleston,” he said.
In the video, Scott is seen being shot as he tried to run from Slager, who then handcuffs the dying man.
“It’s not something that no one can feel happy about. He has his family, Mr. Scott also has his family,” Santana — who was on his way to work when he noticed Slager and Scott, and heard a stun gun being deployed — told NBC.
“But I think, you know, (the officer) made a bad decision, and you pay for your decisions in this life.”
“Mr. Scott didn’t deserve this,” he continued. “And there were other ways that can be used to get him arrested. And that wasn’t the proper way to do that.”
He described the scene that unfolded during the fatal encounter.
“Before I started recording, they were down on the floor. I remember the police (officer) had control of the situation,” Santana said.
“He had control of Scott. And Scott was trying just to get away from the Taser (stun gun). But like I said, he never used the Taser against the cop.”
Several killings of unarmed black men by police officers in recent months have sparked sometimes violent protests across the United States, with demonstrators alleging racism in the nation’s police departments.
Officers have rarely been charged in the shootings, however — even when the incidents were recorded.