NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. — Feidin Santana, the man who recorded a South Carolina police officer fatally shooting a fleeing unarmed man, says fear for his own life almost kept him from revealing the tape.
In interviews with MSNBC and NBC, Santana recalled the moments when he recorded video of North Charleston police Officer Michael Slager shooting Walter Scott as Scott was running away Saturday — evidence that led to the officer’s firing and arrest.
The video, Santana said, almost never came to light.
“I … thought about erasing the video,” Santana told MSNBC’s “All in With Chris Hayes” in an interview that aired Wednesday evening. “I felt that my life, with this information, might be in danger.”
“I know the cop didn’t do … the right thing. And like I say, I feel kind of scared about that,” he added.
The cell phone video, which Santana revealed this week, reignited national outcries surrounding police treatment of African-Americans and led to a murder charge against Slager, who is white. Scott was black.
Santana, 23, also told NBC on Thursday that he didn’t see Scott grab the officer’s Taser — an account that doesn’t match what the officer told dispatchers about what led to the shooting following a traffic stop.
He said he ultimately revealed the video because what he saw — a police officer shooting a man who was running away — didn’t match initial reports of the incident.
“As you can see in the video, the police officer just shot him in the back. … And I knew right away that I had something in my hands,” Santana told NBC’s Lester Holt on Wednesday.
Walking to work when he saw a chase
Police said Slager pulled the 50-year-old Scott over for a broken taillight on Saturday morning. Scott, according to police, fled from Slager for unexplained reasons, causing Slager to chase him.
Santana told NBC that he was walking to work when he saw the chase.
Deciding to check out what was going on, he eventually saw Scott and Slager struggling on the ground, he told NBC’s Holt.
“They were down on the (ground) … before I started recording,” Slager said. “I remember the police (officer) had control of the situation. He had control of Scott.”
Police said Slager used a Taser against Scott, but Slager would also later tell a dispatcher that Scott at some point had grabbed the Taser.
Neither the struggle nor the use of a Taser was captured on video, because Santana had yet to begin recording.
Santana said he heard the sound of a Taser being used, and that he believed Scott was trying to get away from it.
But Scott never got the Taser or used it on the officer, Santana told NBC.
“He never grabbed the Taser of the police. He never got the Taser,” Santana told NBC’s Matt Lauer on Thursday on “Today.”
When Santana’s video begins, Scott starts running away from the officer, with Scott’s back to Slager. The video shows Slager shooting at Scott eight times before Scott falls down.
Any words exchanged between Scott and Slager are not audible on the released tape.
Before the officer starts firing at Scott, the video shows a dark object falling behind him and hitting the ground. It’s not clear whether that is the Taser.
Later in the video, when Slager approaches Scott’s body, he drops a dark object next to the man. Again, it’s not clear whether that’s the Taser.
It’s unknown whether Scott took the officer’s Taser, and it’s unclear whether the officer picked the object up and moved it closer to the body.
“Shots fired. Subject is down,” Slager told a dispatcher, according to an audio recording. “He grabbed my Taser.”
An autopsy of Scott showed that he “sustained multiple gunshot wounds to the back of his body,” and his death was the result of a homicide, the Charleston County Coroner’s Office said.
The FBI is involved in the investigation of the slaying of the father of four.