[image-1]North Charleston City Council voted unanimously Thursday evening to approve a $6.5 million settlement for the family of Walter Scott, who was gunned down by a city police officer in April. Chris Stewart, an attorney for the Scott family, called the decision “a historic pre-suit settlement” that will avoid years of legal battles for the city and the family. Mayor Keith Summey said that city officials met with the family’s lawyers on numerous occasions to work out a final deal that will also protect current and former city employees from being sued in the case.
“This settlement is a step in the right direction for the family, the city, the Lowcountry, and our state,” Summey said in a statement released Thursday. “This will allow us to move forward and focus on the issues our citizens have elected us to do, advance quality of life, and make the future brighter for the citizens of North Charleston.”
Members of the Scott family said they are pleased with the settlement, but they believe what is most important is the message it sends to police.
“While nothing can replace having Walter in our lives, the City of North Charleston’s historic actions ensure that he did not die in vain. Mayor Summey, Chief Driggers, their City Council, and their staff stepped up to make sure that Walter’s children would be cared for financially,” said Anthony Scott, Walter’s brother. “But even more importantly, the city sent a message loud and clear that this kind of reckless behavior exhibited by members of law enforcement will not and shall not be tolerated.”
The Scott family plans to donate a portion of the settlement to disaster relief efforts conducted by the American Red Cross to aid flood victims in South Carolina.
The Scott family said they will now focus their efforts on the criminal trial of Michael Slager, the former North Charleston police officer charged with killing Scott.
This $6.5 million total makes this one of the largest settlements resulting from high-profile cases where black men were killed during altercations with police officers. The family of Eric Garner, who died after a city officer allegedly placed him in a chokehold, received $5.9 million from the City of New York. Much like the case of Walter Scott, Garner’s death was captured on video by a witness. The family of Freddie Gray will receive $6.4 million from the City of Baltimore. Gray died as a result of a spinal injury he received in the back of a police van in April. Cases such as Scott, Garner, and Gray have led to a growing tension between law enforcement and citizens throughout the nation. North Charleston officials hope that this settlement will go a long way in restoring trust in the community.
“It’s with great hope that this settlement resolves community strife, discontentment, and will restore trust to our city of North Charleston,” said Councilman Todd Olds. “So that we can move forward in a positive, progressive manner and capitalize for the benefit of all citizens within North Charleston.”
Councilman Ron Brinson added, “Having looked at all that’s before us, I think that this is the right thing to do morally. I think this is the right thing to do for our police department so it can continue in the process of rebranding itself. And I think this is the right thing to do for the taxpayers of North Charleston.”