Walter Scott: A Loving Son and Father with a Passion for Music and Football
Walter Scott’s final moments have been broadcast around the world in the week since the 50-year-old was fatally shot by a police officer – an indelible image that symbolizes the raging national crisis about race and policing in the United States.
But for family and friends, Scott will always be remembered as an effusive man who loved socializing, music and the Dallas Cowboys football team.
“I almost couldn’t look at it to see my son running defenselessly, being shot,” his mother, Judy Scott, said on ABC’s Good Morning America. “It just tore my heart to pieces.”
His father, Walter Scott Sr, described police officer Michael Slager’s actions in the video as “like he was trying to kill a deer or something running through the woods”.
Slager, who is white, shot the unarmed Walter Scott times, striking him with five bullets in a grassy lot near a busy North Charleston street.
“We have his memories, but he will never come back,” his mother said. “And I pray that this never happens to anybody else.”
In 1984, the 19-year-old Scott left his parents’ Charleston home to join the US coast guard, which he served in for two years, last stationed in Baltimore, before a “discharge under honorable conditions”, spokesperson Lisa Novak said.
At one point during his service he was involuntarily separated from the coast guard “for a drug-related offense”, but the service declined to provide any further details.
He returned to South Carolina in the late 1980s, and married his first wife, Lisa Aiken, in 1993. The couple lived in and around Charleston for almost the decade, before divorcing in the early 2000s.
Public records show that the 40-year-old Scott then married 36-year-old Renee Yvonne Hamilton on New Year’s Day 2006, and divorced some time later. Hamilton, whose surname is now Battle, did not immediately respond to phone calls or emails.
Only weeks before his fatal encounter with Slager, Scott had proposed to his girlfriend Charlotte Jones, and friends have described the couple’s relationship asmutually adoring. “The adoration he had for her was so immense it was crazy,” friend Romaine Scott told Mashable, adding that she and her partner wanted their own relationship to be “tight-knit like that”.
Relatives said Scott had a good relationship with his four children, two of them now in their 20s, although he allowed numerous child support payments to lapse over the years. By the time of his death on Saturday police had an outstanding warrant for his arrest over the payments, and Scott’s family believes he fled from Slager for that reason.
“He had back child support, and didn’t want to go to jail for back child support,” family attorney Chris Stewart told reporters.
Anthony, Scott’s older brother, told CNN that the mother of Scott’s two older children “is deceased. But he brought them [his four children] together as brothers and sisters like they were brothers and sisters from the same mother. Now they have lost their father.”
Judy Scott, Walter’s mother, at first sent her 20-year-old grandson, also called Walter, to the scene after Scott called home for fear the traffic stop would send him to jail over the support payments. Walter then broke the news of his uncle’s death to his other uncle, Anthony, who arrived at the scene not long afterward.
Walter Scott appears to have taken numerous jobs over the years. His family has said he worked as a forklift operator for a trucking company, but public records show he was also a licensed massage therapist and had recently worked as a steel fabricator.
He accumulated several arrests over two decades, once for battery and assault shortly after he left the coast guard, but in almost all other cases over a failure to pay child support or appear in court.
The arrests also do not appear to have ever diminished Scott’s jovial nature. Family and friends depict a vivacious and playful man who often brightened their daily lives.
“Everybody loved him,” his mother told reporters. “He was the most outgoing out of all of us. He knew everybody,” his older brother said.
His brothers, 52-year-old Anthony and 48-year-old Rodney, have repeatedly described to reporters Scott’s fanatical love of the Dallas Cowboys. He would go so far as to call his brothers while watching to shout about a big play, they said.
He also loved music. He sang for the church choir and played drums, his parents and friends say. He enjoyed nights drinking a couple of beers and playing dominoes with friends, and the brothers had enjoyed a reunion three weeks ago to celebrate a surprise 50th anniversary party for their father and mother.
“I loved him to death,” University of Mississippi football player Fadol Brown said in a since-deleted tweet. The mother of Brown’s longtime girlfriend had been dating Scott, and he had seen him as a father figure, Ole Miss football coach Hugh Freeze told the Post and Courier.
Brown called him a “stepdad” in the original tweet, which also said police “didn’t have to shoot him down like a dog”.
Family attorney Stewart said the family intends to sue the city and police, “seeking recovery to the full extent of the law”.
“We have a little bit more of the process to do. A charge is not being convicted,” his older brother told Good Morning America. “Once a conviction is put in place, I’ll feel a whole lot better.”
Small bouquets dot the perimeter of the small grassy area where he was killed. It only takes about two minutes to cross the length of the lot, which has a paved driveway running through it.
Most bystanders avoided walking in, instead looking at the site, which is marked with flowers, from behind a fence, close to where video of the shooting was recorded. Just behind that area is a sign identical to those posted across the city: “North Charleston police department has jurisdiction over this property.”
Frankie the Big Bopper, a landmark Charleston radio personality, visited the shooting site on Wednesday afternoon.
“As I stand here, I just can’t help but feel for the family and imagine what they went through and are going through,” he said. “My heart goes out to both the cop’s family and the victim’s family. And I feel like, from what I saw in the video, it just didn’t have to happen.”