Let me begin by my offering my heartfelt condolences and words of encouragement to the family and friends of Walter Scott, Jr. I know that words are simply not enough to help you as you face the one year anniversary of his death, but please know that my family and I are praying for your continued healing.
I can remember exactly what I was doing on April 4, 2015 when I heard that Scott had been shot. My campaign team was hosting a follow-up event to the showing of the movie Selma,with an open dialogue forum at the College of Charleston, called “A Road To Change.” During the Selma screening two months prior, many that participated in the subsequent discussions following the film, were amazed at the insight and thought-provoking questions that the students raised regarding race in America and the film itself.
We knew that we had to follow-up on these talks, so we convened on April 4th. We invited students, local leaders and others to the event and were met with diverse and well-informed responses from the likes of Pastor Thomas Dixon, Dr. Millicent Brown, Dr. Jon Hale, historian Damon Fordham and a number of others from the Charleston community. I remember as the discussions were wrapping up, Pastor Dixon got a message on his phone and looked down. He was in the midst of speaking and the message cut his words short. “I have to go. Apparently some young brother was shot by a police officer in North Charleston,” were his words as he prepared to leave.
Walter Scott should not have been shot. In my view, there is no way to frame his death to justify his killing. We must never forget that. We must never forget that he lost his life and from that darkness a light began to shine. As a member of the Senate sub-committee who participated and engaged in vigorous debate during all of the police body camera hearings held before and after the Scott shooting, (the Senate bill was filed in 2014 after the shooting of Levar Jones, an unarmed African-American pulled over for a seat beat violation in Richland County), the General Assembly banded together along with support from the law enforcement community, to pass the bill, as South Carolina became the first state in the nation to enact a statewide mandate. His death forced many to “look in the mirror” and weigh the depth of their actions and biases. Walter Scott’s death ushered in a period of self-examination for all of us in Charleston that only increased with the Mother Emmanuel AME massacre two months later.
We must continue to push forward as one, as a unified people, less concerned about race and separation, but more focused on unity and full inclusion. We must remember that one bad officer does not represent the entirety of our law enforcement professionals who lay their lives on the line daily. We must remember that Walter Scott, Jr. did not die in vain so we must remain vigilant because there is much more work to do. We must never forget that in death, he tried to bring us all together. Let us all pray for the Scott Family, let us pray for each other, let us pray for reconciliation, and let us pray for our future.
Senator Marlon Kimpson