South Carolina

In rare move, feds indict former officer in fatal shooting

  • Judy Scott, the mother of Walter Scott who was shot and killed while fleeing a traffic stop in April of 2015, speaks to reporters outside the federal courthouse in Charleston, S.C., on Wednesday, May 11, 2016. Prosecutors on Wednesday unsealed an indictment charging white former police officer Michael Slager with three federal counts in the death of Scott. Slager already faces a murder charge in state court. (AP Photo/Bruce Smith)

    Judy Scott, the mother of Walter Scott who was shot and killed while fleeing a traffic stop in April of 2015, speaks to reporters outside the federal courthouse in Charleston, S.C., on Wednesday, May 11, 2016. Prosecutors on Wednesday unsealed an indictment charging white former police officer Michael Slager with three federal counts in the death of Scott. Slager already faces a murder charge in state court. (AP Photo/Bruce Smith)  (The Associated Press)

  • Anthony Scott, the brother of Walter Scott who was shot and killed while fleeing a traffic stop in April, 2015, speaks to reporters outside the federal courthouse in Charleston, S.C., Wednesday, May 11, 2016. At right is the Scott family attorney Chris Stewart. Prosecutors on Wednesday unsealed a federal indictment charging white, former police officer Michael Slager with three federal counts in the death of Scott. Slager already faces a murder charge in state court. (AP Photo/Bruce Smith)

    Anthony Scott, the brother of Walter Scott who was shot and killed while fleeing a traffic stop in April, 2015, speaks to reporters outside the federal courthouse in Charleston, S.C., Wednesday, May 11, 2016. At right is the Scott family attorney Chris Stewart. Prosecutors on Wednesday unsealed a federal indictment charging white, former police officer Michael Slager with three federal counts in the death of Scott. Slager already faces a murder charge in state court. (AP Photo/Bruce Smith)  (The Associated Press)

Two things stand out about this week's indictment of a white former South Carolina police officer on federal civil rights charges in the death of unarmed black motorist Walter Scott: Such charges from the feds against an officer are relatively rare, and they send a message.

Thirty-four-year-old Michael Slager already faces state murder charges in Scott's death.

A bystander's cellphone video captured images of Slager, then a North Charleston police officer, firing eight times as 50-year-old Scott ran from an April 2015 traffic stop. The case inflamed a national debate about how blacks are treated by white police officers.

Some, including attorneys for Scott's family, see new indictment as a message from federal prosecutors that they've got their eye on law officers and are fed up with flagrant violence.