NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) — Personal Injury Lawyers for a man who was shocked by a Taser by former North Charleston Police Officer Michael Slager while pinned to the ground by two other officers in 2014 said they filed a lawsuit last week because of a “pattern of abuse” by Slager, who is charged with murder in the death of Walter Scott.
Julius Wilson is the second man to file a lawsuit against Slager and the city alleging the former officer used excessive use of force.
“The use of excessive force or punishment to torture suspects isn’t something that should be tolerated by the North Charleston Police Department or the city of North Charleston,” Wilson said in a news conference outside city hall Monday.
Wilson’s personal injury lawyers released a dashboard-camera video showing the Aug. 25 incident in which officers stopped Wilson for a faulty brake light. The dashboard video showed Wilson had a valid Georgia drivers license and a Class G moped license for South Carolina. The video showed confusion over whether Wilson could be arrested. The car had a Georgia license plate, the initial report stated.
Slager and Officer Brad Woods approached the vehicle and told Wilson he was under arrest for having a suspended license, according to the report, but Wilson refused to get out of the vehicle.
The video showed Wilson refused to get out of the car because, he said during a press conference Monday, the officer wouldn’t say why he was being arrested.
“The officer never stated why I was being under arrest. He just told me to get out of the car and he would tell me later,” he said.
The police report said Wilson braced his feet and arms so that he could not be dragged out of the vehicle. During the struggle to get him out of the car, a third officer arrived, the report noted.
Slager noted in his report that he called out “Taser!” three times and hit Wilson in the back with the prongs, sending an electric current through Wilson’s body.
The report also noted that Slager says he saw Wilson reach for something in his car and officers pulled their guns in defense. During a search of the car, they found a 16-inch wooden club sitting between the center console and the driver’s seat.
Wilson’s attorneys say their client was already subdued when Slager shocked him with the Taser.
“The bedrock issue in our case is simply this: Was Officer Slager justified in Tasing Mr. Wilson in the back after he was on the ground, on his stomach with his palms face down cooperating with the other two officers?” Attorney John Gentry said. “We believe the answer is no and we look forward to trying this in front of a Charleston County jury because we believe their answer will be a resounding ‘no’ as well.”
Wilson pleaded guilty to resisting arrest but filed a use-of-force complaint against Slager. The police department exonerated him.
Personal injury lawyer, Nicholas Clekis, another Wilson attorney, said they had shelved the idea of filing a lawsuit. After Slager was charged with murder after firing eight shots at the back of Walter Scott, Clekis said they took another look at Wilson’s case.
“We decided to look back at this case and realized Mr. Wilson’s rights were violated,” Clekis said.
Answering a reporter’s question, he said they did not consider themselves opportunists. “It gives more credence to the lawsuit than just this isolated event in a vacuum,” Clekis said. “It’s not more of us being an opportunist; it’s more that the events have given us an opportunity.”
Attorneys said they don’t think North Charleston has a bad police department; they said most of the officers are honest and work hard. But, Wilson said he had seen police officers commit violent acts before. He encouraged others who had been “victims” of police to speak out.
“I grew up in North Charleston,” Wilson said. “During my lifetime I have witnessed violent acts by police officers. Without proof of such acts, the word of police officers is always taken over the word of victims forced to endure these violent acts. As the video shows, I myself have been a victim of such force by the police.”
Wilson said others who had been mistreated by former-Officer Slager should come forward as well.