If not for a chilling cellphone video, the shooting of Walter Scott in North Charleston, S.C., might have been written off as a justified police shooting, another case of an officer gunning down a man because he feared for his life.
That was certainly what family members, who doubted the initial police account, had feared until a young man approached the victim's brother Sunday afternoon. He was standing in the exact spot where Scott had been killed hours earlier.
"I have something to share with you," said the young man, according to Anthony Scott.
He produced a Samsung cellphone and played the chilling video that has now been viewed around the world. It shows Walter Scott running away from Michael Thomas Slager as the now former North Charleston police officer unleashed a volley of gunfire that felled the 50-year-old.
Slager was charged with murder Tuesday, but in the immediate aftermath of that announcement, little was known about the young man who is largely responsible for his arrest.
An attorney for the Scott family has said the young man, who was later identified as Feidin Santana during a Wednesday interview with NBC, was afraid he would face retribution for producing the incriminating recording.
He was initially unsure whether he would come forward, the family attorney had said.
Santana told NBC that he was so worried about repercussions, he considered erasing the video and leaving town.
He said he decided to come forward when he felt Slager’s confrontation with Scott was being misrepresented. "I saw the police report, and I saw it was going the wrong way…. I got mad," he said. The official description of what happened "wasn’t like I saw it."
So, he said, he approached police and told them he witnessed the shooting and had video, but then his fear won out. "I just ran out of there," he said.
He said he ultimately brought the clip to Scott's relatives after realizing that if the same thing had happened to one of his family members, he "would like to know the truth."
Santana's initial fears about retribution may not have been unwarranted. This video is the latest in a series of unsettling clips that have depicted police officers killing or injuring unarmed black men in recent years. People behind those cameras have lived to regret the attention, and sometimes danger, that came with involving themselves in such high-profile cases.