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Former South Carolina Officer Sentenced To 20 Years In Prison

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

The last few years, we've seen a string of police-involved shootings of unarmed black men in this country. When those cases have gone to trial, they rarely end in convictions, which is why the ruling yesterday in South Carolina is so significant.

Michael Slager, a white former police officer, was sentenced to 20 years in prison. In 2015, he shot and killed Walter Scott after a traffic stop. Video captured by a bystander shows the shooting in gruesome detail. Slager fired at Scott in the back numerous times as Scott was running away. Ultimately, Walter Scott falls down. Then Slager is shown to drop a taser beside Scott's body. South Carolina Public Radio's Victoria Hansen has more from Charleston.

VICTORIA HANSEN, BYLINE: Walter Scott's mother clutched a picture of her son outside the courthouse after sentencing.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

JUNE SCOTT: My soul is rejoicing right now.

HANSEN: Just hours before, June (ph) Scott told the judge losing her son was surreal. She later turned to his killer and said, I forgive you. Michael Slager wiped his face and appeared to mouth the words, I'm sorry. June Scott said quietly, I know.

The Scott family believes Slager's prison time would not have been possible without witness cellphone video showing the officer shooting Scott from behind as he ran away. Here's brother Rodney Scott.

RODNEY SCOTT: Today we made history getting justice. My heart goes out to all the families that didn't get justice.

HANSEN: Family attorney Chris Stewart hopes Slager's lengthy sentence sends a strong message to officers across the nation.

CHRIS STEWART: Stop and think, or you can end up 20 years behind bars. You won't just get away every time.

HANSEN: The Scott family feels like they were chosen to fight for others - other victims of unjustified police violence - to save them their pain.

For NPR News, I'm Victoria Hansen in Charleston, S.C. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.