Civil rights groups in North Charleston, South Carolina have called on the U.S. Department of Justice to launch an investigation into all the fatal officer-involved shootings that have taken place in Charleston County since 1994.
The request was made Friday at North Charleston City Hall in a joint press conference held by the North Charleston NAACP, the Coalition (People United to Take Back Our Community) and the Tri-County chapter of the Rev. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network.
DOJ spokeswoman Dena Iverson said in response that “The department will review any requests that are submitted,” The New York Times reported.
The call comes in the wake of the April 4 killing of Walter Scott, a black man who was repeatedly shot in the back by a white police officer as Scott tried to flee.
Three days after the shooting, a bystander’s cellphone video of the shooting surfaced. The video appears to contradict the version of events given by Michael Slager, the officer who shot Scott.
In a written statement, the groups said:
It is commonly believed in the African-American community, those most affected by officer-involved shootings, that law enforcement agencies have deliberately filed false police reports, tampered with evidence, turned a blind eye to the facts of their investigations and launched covered-up campaigns in order to avoid prosecution for their acts of violence perpetrated against black people in North Charleston and in Charleston County.
On Friday, the activists said that they believed other police officers who shot and killed residents of Charleston County in the last 21 years may have avoided prosecution because there was a lack of the sort of stark evidence present in the Scott case.
The groups also called the North Charleston Police Department’s early actions following Walter Scott’s death “the beginnings of a cover-up that would have eventually resulted in the acquittal of Michael Slager.”
In a recent interview with NewsHour’s Gwen Ifill, Brian Hicks, a columnist for The Post and Courier newspaper in Charleston, said that members of the community and the NAACP have “claimed for well over a decade that North Charleston police use racial profiling” and “pick on black citizens.”