Manslaughter Not Murder

by Geraldo Rivera | Apr 10, 2015

Last night I spoke at the NYPD Sergeant Benevolent Assn Heroes Dinner…which is held every year for the last 106 years….and since 2001, has honored the four police sergeants who died in the World Trade Center attacks. As I sat on the dais I remembered something about that awful day…I remember being stuck in California unable to get back to the City and to my children who were stuck here in Manhattan…I re-lived that frustration on another terrible day this past December when two NYPD cops were executed by a lunatic driven to rage by all the vile hateful anti-police rhetoric that irresponsible race baiters were putting out about cops in the wake of the Michael Brown and Eric Garner deaths…And as with 2001, I was stuck thousands of miles away unable to get back in time to help guide the city through this latest trauma.

Well I got the chance to talk about the murders of Detectives Ramos and Liu last night as the SBA honored their families along with the families of two other cops, Michael Williams and Dennis Guerra, who also died in the line of duty.

My point is that cops have a tough often thankless dangerous job. And before we judge them, we should try to walk in their shoes understanding the peril they face in this hard cruel world.

Which brings me to South Carolina Police Officer Michael Slager, who shot Walter Scott a fleeing, unarmed black man in the back on videotape.

First speaking of tape, Slager’s dash cam video clearly shows that the SC cop made a righteous traffic stop and behaved professionally until Mr. Scott, who apparently had an outstanding warrant for the non-payment of child support bolted. Then eyewitnesses say the pair struggled over the cop's Taser.

With his adrenaline pumping after Scott breaks away, Slager the cop does the unforgivable and fires eight shots…hitting the fleeing Scott five times in the back.

And then, to compound homicide with evidence tampering, Officer Slager appears to plant his Taser at the feet of the deceased, which could be a separate offense.

But remembering what I said about putting yourself in the cop’s shoes before you judge him, I do not think Slager committed Murder…there is no Pre-meditation…And there was the violent struggle moments before the shooting, which is unforgiveable and criminal and probably Manslaughter, not Murder as charged.

But to the larger issue of excessive use of force by cops particularly on unarmed black men…I understand that too many black moms will be going to bed this Friday night more worried that their sons will be hurt by cops than by crooks.

That is not necessarily the reality… statistics are unreliable…but what is undeniable is that too many black families fear cops more than crooks because of these highly publicized and all too frequent incidents …and perceptions matter.

Therefore, love him or loath him I believe Reverend Al Sharpton and other civil rights leaders and agitators are right when they call for a new federal law. 

I believe that the U.S. Justice Department should be the lead agency in the investigation of all police killings. There must be one standard nationwide for police conduct. There must be an objective non-bias investigation.

Officer Michael Slager did not set out Saturday morning to murder Walter Scott. But Scott is dead nevertheless. And absent the videotape of his killing there is a good chance that justice in this case would not have been served.

But also remember that the Thin Blue Line is what defends civilization from anarchy. Cops deserve the benefit of the doubt unless and until they cross the line as Officer Michael Slager so clearly did in shooting Walter Scott in the back.


Officer William's Family

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Detective Guerra's Family

Detective Ramos Family


Detective Wenjian Liu's Family

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