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Ex-South Carolina cop's shooting of motorist was murder: judge

By Greg Lacour

By Greg Lacour

CHARLESTON, S.C. (Reuters) - A white former South Carolina policeman caught on video shooting an unarmed black man in the back after a 2015 traffic stop was sentenced on Thursday to 20 years in federal prison for violating the motorist's civil rights.

Michael Slager, 36, pleaded guilty in May to using excessive force when he killed 50-year-old Walter Scott in North Charleston. Slager, then a police officer on the local force, shot Scott eight times, hitting him five times.

A bystander's cellphone video of the shooting drew national attention to the case, renewing concerns in the United States about police use of deadly force against unarmed black men.

"I wish this never would have happened," Slager said in U.S. District Court in Charleston minutes before learning his punishment. "I wish I could go back and change events, but I can’t and I am very sorry for that."

Earlier on Thursday, U.S. District Judge David Norton ruled that Slager had committed second-degree murder and obstructed justice by lying to investigators three days after the April 2015 shooting.

Slager had said there was a struggle between the two men and Scott tried to take his stun gun, but Norton said the video of the incident showed otherwise.

The judge agreed with prosecutors who argued at Slager's sentencing hearing this week that he showed malice and calculation. Norton rejected the defense argument that Slager was provoked or acted in the heat of passion.

(Reporting by Greg Lacour; Writing by Colleen Jenkins; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Chizu Nomiyama)