Slager shooting Scott
North Charleston police officer Michael Slager (R) is seen allegedly shooting 50-year-old Walter Scott in the back as he runs away, in this still image from video in North Charleston, South Carolina taken April 4, 2015. Slager was charged with murder on April 7 after a video showed him shooting eight times at the back of Scott who was running away. North Charleston Mayor Keith Summey said state investigators decided to charge officer Slager, 33, with the murder of Scott after they viewed the video of the incident, which followed a traffic stop on Saturday morning. The FBI and U.S. Justice Department have begun a separate investigation. REUTERS/HANDOUT via Reuters

Feidin Santana was scared for his life when he recorded a video of a South Carolina police officer shooting an unarmed man in the back. Santana, 23, works at a Charleston barbershop. He was on his way to work when he witnessed a scuffle between Walter Scott, 50, and Officer Michael Slager, 33. In the video (shown at the end of this article), Slager appears to shoot Scott in the back while running away. Santana’s video and testimony later contradicted key elements of Slager’s official police report.

“After I filmed... I knew the magnitude of this,” Santana told told MSNBC in articulate but accented English. Santana is originally from the Dominican Republic. “I even thought about erasing the video. I felt that my life, with this information, might be in danger. I thought about leaving [Charleston], and living somewhere else. I knew that the cop didn’t do the right thing.”

Santana told NBC News that he went home and sat on the video. People were talking about the case all over town, on the news, and in the barbershop where he works. He read the police report, and was astounded to see how much the officer appeared to be lying. In the report and on the news, the facts didn’t line up with what he saw, and what he had captured on his camera. Troubled by the disparity between accounts, he went to the local police station to set the record straight. But the police reportedly spooked him. He shared the video with news outlets, lawyered up, and got his face on TV. He’s still afraid, but more sure that the police won’t retaliate against him for taking down one of their own.

“What is he supposed to do when the people that are supposed to protect us are the ones that have turned against us,” said Todd Rutherford, Santana’s attorney.

Officer Slager is now in jail awaiting trial on murder charges. If convicted, he could face up to 30 years in prison. A past excessive force complaint against him was dismissed, but is being reviewed. The case has renewed calls for increased accountability among police officers, including proposals for uniforms to include video lapels. Supporters and observers believe that Santana’s actions could have a huge impact on police in South Carolina and across the nation. For Santana, it’s bigger than that.

“I’m from the Dominican Republic, and in the Dominican Republic we look at the authority of the United States. We look at the way people are treated here. And it’s not just Dominicans but all the Hispanic countries and all over the world. I don’t think that this is a good way for us to see [this type of situation]. Cops are taking advantage of their power [and using it] against minorities. This has to stop.”

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