North Charleston police officer Michael Slager ‘didn’t create any issues nor was he an award winner’

Jason Sickles
North Charleston police officer Michael Slager is seen standing over Walter Scott after allegedly shooting him in the back as he ran away in this still image from video. (Reuters/Handout)

Michael Thomas Slager’s first night on patrol with the North Charleston, S.C., Police Department couldn’t have gone more smoothly.

The rookie “was very enthused and ready to work,” a field training supervisor documented on Slager’s first day. “He wanted to be involved.”

On Wednesday — five years and a month since that initial promising shift — Slager was stripped of his badge.

Last weekend, Slager told the department he had feared for his life when Walter Scott took his stun gun in a scuffle after a traffic stop.

But a bystander’s video shows Slager firing eight shots as the apparently unarmed black man runs away. The final shot from the officer’s .45-caliber handgun drops Scott face-first into the ground. Then Slager, who is white, approaches and cuffs the man’s hands behind his back.

Michael Slager photographed at the Charleston County Detention Center after his arrest on Tuesday. (Charleston County Sheriff's Office)

“I have watched the video, and I was sickened by what I saw,” Eddie Driggers, the North Charleston police chief, said at a news conference announcing the officer’s termination.

The footage has had an immediate impact on the case and the city’s response. State detectives are now investigating the death and have charged Slager, 33, with murder. He is being held at the Charleston County Detention Center without bond.

After announcing his firing, the department also made the unprecedented move of turning over nearly 100 pages from Slager’s personnel file. The officer’s employment application, oath of office, training certificates and some — but not all — of his work appraisals are included in the document dump.

The papers shed little light on what might have motivated the officer to kill Scott, who police said apparently fled on foot after the officer pulled him over for a broken taillight.

Slager, known as Mike to his family and friends, graduated in 2001 from Lenape High School in Medford, N.J. According to his application, he waited tables at a mom-and-pop Italian restaurant before enlisting with the U.S. Coast Guard in 2003. During six years as a Guardsman, he worked as a mechanic and engineer and eventually performed security duties as a boarding team member.

Click image to read entire document.

“Military time is up,” Slager wrote as his reason for leaving the service when he applied to NCPD in 2009. His application included at least one fellow Guardsman as a personal contact. That person and another reference from the application did not return messages from Yahoo News seeking comment.

Keith Summey, mayor of North Charleston, told reporters that Slager is a married stepfather of two children whose wife is 8 months pregnant. Despite firing the officer, Summey said the city planned to honor his wife’s health insurance until after the baby is born.

“We think that is the humane thing to do and we are going to do it,” the mayor said.

Attempts to reach Slager’s wife were unsuccessful. Messages left for his parents and other family members were not returned.

According to public records, Slager has primarily lived in New Jersey, Florida and South Carolina.

North Charleston hired him in December 2009 and sent him to the South Carolina Criminal Justice Academy for nine weeks of instruction.

“He was a normal student while at the Academy,” Major Florence McCants told Yahoo News. “He didn't create any issues nor was he an award winner in any of the categories.”

Among the outcries from Saturday’s shooting are concerns that police did not try to save Scott’s life after he was shot. Police reports state that officers applied pressure to his wounds and performed CPR, but the bystander video released by the Scotts' family attorney doesn’t appear to capture those moments.

On Wednesday, Chief Driggers said he didn’t know for sure if CPR was administered. When asked whether proper protocols in general had been followed, he said, “Obviously not.”

Walter Scott, 50, died Saturday after being shot by North Charleston police officer Michael Slager. (ABC News/Scott Family)

Documents released from Slager’s personnel file show that his training through the years included courses for CPR, Taser use and crisis intervention.

During his time on the force, two citizen complaints were filed against Slager. In 2013, a man said Slager shot him with a Taser for no reason. An internal investigation exonerated the officer of wrongdoing, though the man was not a suspect in a crime. Earlier this year, his bosses sustained a complaint against Slager for not taking a police report when called to a neighbor disturbance.

On Wednesday, Slager turned down an interview request from Yahoo News. Sheriff’s personnel noted the fired officer “refused to sign” a jail form declining the inquiry.

He’s being kept in cell 1140B, a protective unit away from most of the jail’s other 1,200 inmates, according to Major Eric Watson, spokesman for the Charleston County Sheriff’s Department.

“That’s normal protocol when we have cases of this magnitude — a high-profile inmate in our custody,” Watson said.

On that first night five years ago, Slager's trainer noted that he counseled the rookie on procedures for conducting traffic stops and citizen contacts.

“This being the first day of his training he needs more experience and direction in several areas,” the supervisor wrote. “This however will [be] conducted throughout his training.”

 Jason Sickles is a reporter for Yahoo News. Follow him on Twitter (@jasonsickles).

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