April 12, 2015 - 5:01 AM
SUMMERVILLE, S.C. - A crowd gathered in Summerville, South Carolina on Saturday for the funeral of Walter Scott — the black driver who was fatally shot by a North Charleston police officer after fleeing a traffic stop.
Scott's family arrived at W.O.R.D. Ministries Christian Center in a fleet of three black limousines that were followed by several other vehicles. Some who were lined up outside held up their cellphones trying to capture the scene as Scott's casket was unloaded from the hearse and wheeled inside.
Organizers placed chairs in the church's vestibule to accommodate the overflow crowd and ushered select people inside for the service. Many who were in line and waited through a period of rain and humidity were unable to get into the sanctuary.
"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 said he went to high school with Scott and one of his brothers.
A monitor with video of the funeral showed Scott's casket on an altar draped in an American flag. The program said Scott, 50, was a devout Christian and expressed that by singing in his church choir.
Police initially said Scott was shot on April 4 during a tussle over Michael Slager's department-issued Taser. But witness video surfaced later, showing Scott being shot eight times as he ran away. Slager was fired and charged with murder.
The incident sparked outrage as another instance of a white law enforcement officer fatally shooting an unarmed black man under questionable circumstances.
A steady stream of people gathered Friday afternoon at a wake to pay their respects to Scott at a funeral home in downtown Charleston. Scott's open casket was adorned with a Dallas Cowboys sign and a miniature figure of a player.
A heart-shaped flower arrangement to the left of his casket during the wake read "Beloved Father" and a ribbon on the right read "St. Andrews Parish High School Class of 1984." Some visitors expressed how bewildered they were with the circumstances that led to him lying there.
Scott was driving a 1991 Mercedes that he bought from a neighbour and was headed to an auto parts store when he was stopped, his brother Rodney Scott said. Police said he had a broken taillight.
Video from the police car's dashboard camera shows Slager asking Scott for his license and registration, then heading back to his cruiser before Scott gets out of the car and runs.
Scott's relatives have said they suspect he fled Slager out of fear of being jailed again over missed child support payments.
At the time he was stopped, Scott, a father of four who worked as a warehouse forklift operator, owed more than $18,000 in child support and court fees, according to Charleston County records. He last paid child support in 2012 and a bench warrant for his arrest was issued in early 2013. Scott had been in jail three times since 2008.
"His mission was to avoid the police as much as possible," Rodney Scott said.
Rodney Scott said his brother would take long detours while driving to their parents' house because he thought there were more police patrolling the direct, 10-minute route from his home. He said Walter also tried to make sure any vehicle he drove had working headlights and taillights.
Those who knew him remember Scott 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 favourite Dallas Cowboys, even in the spring, when the rest of the sports world had moved on to college basketball and March Madness.
Despite struggles to keep up with child support payments, Scott's relatives said he stayed close to his four children — a 24-year-old daughter and three sons, ages 22, 20 and 16.
Associated Press videographer Alex Sanz contributed to this report.
News from © The Associated Press, 2015