A minister told hundreds gathered for the funeral of Walter Scott Saturday that the death of a black man shot in the back while fleeing a white police officer was the act of a racist cop.
"All of us have seen the video," the Rev. George Hamilton, the minister at W.O.R.D. Ministries Christian Center, told an overflow congregation. "There is no doubt in my mind and I feel that Walter's death was motivated by racial prejudice." Authorities have not said whether race was a factor in the shooting.
Scott was a father of four and a Coast Guard veteran whose death has sparked outrage as another instance of a white law officer shooting and killing an unarmed black man under questionable circumstances. The shooting in North Charleston last weekend was captured on a cellphone camera video by a civilian.
About 450 people including U.S. Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., and U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn, D-S.C., the two black members of South Carolina's congressional delegation, gathered in the sanctuary of the church where Scott had worshipped.
About 200 more people waited outside beneath the portico of the church or under umbrellas in the rain because the sanctuary had reached capacity.
Hamilton called Michael Slager, who was the officer involved in the shooting deaeth and show has been charged with murder and was fired, a disgrace to the North Charleston Police Department.
"This particular cop was a racist. You don't Tase a man and then shoot," the minister said. But he added "we will not indict the entire law enforcement community for the act of one racist."
Hamilton said that the Scott family could take comfort in the fact that Slager was captured on the video, was charged and will face justice.
Scott was remembered as a gentle soul and a born-again Christian. "He was not perfect," the minister said, adding that nobody is.
Scott's family arrived in a fleet of three black limousines followed by several other vehicles. Dozens who were waiting outside held up their cellphones trying to capture the scene as Scott's casket was unloaded from the hearse and wheeled inside.
"You know, Walter touched a lot of people. He was very friendly with everyone. I don't think he ever met an enemy. So, there's a lot of people out here, just paying their respects to him and his legacy," said Tyrone Johnson, a Charlotte, North Carolina, resident who was waiting before the service. He said he went to high school with Scott and one of his brothers.
At the funeral, Scott family attorney Chris Stewart said the pain behind this shooting would have hurt any family no matter the color. "The epidemic of powerless people being taken advantage of no matter what color, no matter what gender, no matter what belief system you have, needs to stop," he said.
"We're not going to let this case boil down to just racial issues because it's bigger than that," Stewart said. "It's a human issue."
Police initially said Scott was shot on April 4 during a tussle over Slager’s Taster. However, the video released Tuesday showed Slager firing eight rounds as Scott fled from the scene.
Police stopped Scott, who was driving a 1991 Mercedes, over a broken taillight. The dashcam on Slager’s police cruiser shows the officer asking Scott for his credentials and when the officer goes back to his car, Scott runs.
Scott is believed to have run out of fear of being jailed again over missed child support payments. He owed more than $18,000 in child support and court fees.
"I think this is a catalyst to get people to face up to the fact that we've got problems in this country," he said. "I think this exposed something that is already there."
Clyburn also said that it didn't make sense for Scott to face jail for failing to pay child support. That caused Scott to lose a $35,000-a-year job, making it impossible for him to pay.
"If you want to collect child support, there's got to be income — and you ain't going to make much income from jail," Clyburn said.
Clyburn also said there need to be minimum standards, perhaps national standards, for evaluating law officers.
"It seems to me evaluation needs to be much more than whether or not you can shoot a gun," he said.
Those who knew Scott remembered him as lighthearted and gentle. They describe a laid-back, fun-loving man who took his girlfriend dancing on weekends. Scott had been married twice, and proposed to his girlfriend Charlotte Jones about a week before he was killed.
Co-workers said Scott always seemed calm at work and would often stop to ask others how they were doing. He loved to talk about pro football, especially his favorite Dallas Cowboys, even in the spring, when the rest of the sports world had moved on to college basketball and March Madness.
Stanley Weldon of Summerville said before the service that he attended church with the Scott family.
"It's a sad day in the community and the church family to lose someone who was a member of our church," he said.
He added: "This is stressful but we have to turn this into a blessing and learn from it and the community will come together."
The Associated Press contributed to this report