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Sharpton urges unity, praises S.C. mayor in wake of shooting

NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. -- The Rev. Al Sharpton called for unity during a vigil at the site where 50-year-old Walter Scott was fatally shot by a North Charleston police officer.

A small crowd assembled Sunday afternoon under cloudy skies in the grassy, fenced-in area to pray for Scott, his family and for justice.

Scott was shot after fleeing a traffic stop April 4. Then-officer Michael Slager initially said Scott was shot after a tussle over his stun gun, but witness video surfaced showing Scott being shot as he ran away. Slager was fired and has been charged with murder.

Other speakers at the vigil urged the crowd to attend an upcoming meeting at the South Carolina Capitol about a bill proposing body cameras for officers in the state.

Earlier, Sharpton thanked the mayor and police chief in North Charleston, South Carolina for their response to the fatal shooting of Walter Scott during his sermon at a local church on Sunday morning.

Sharpton appeared at Charity Missionary Baptist Church, where mayor Keith Summey and Police Chief Eddie Driggers were among those in the congregation.

"What this mayor did is what we've asked mayors to do all over the country. Not 'do us a favor,' just enforce the law," Sharpton said, CBS affiliate WCSC reported.

Despite the city's response and Sharpton's praise, there's still a lingering sense of skepticism about whether Scott's death would have been thoroughly investigated without the witness video.

"The mayor and the chief, they did what they had to do because none of us are blind," Keith White, 60, of North Charleston, said before the church service. "Everyone saw the video and they did what they were forced to do once that video became public."

Despite the events leading up to Scott's death, the response by city officials and the local community hasn't been similar to that of Ferguson, Missouri, where protests after the fatal shooting of Michael Brown and a grand jury's decision not to indict the officer who shot him turned violent and exposed striking social rifts between black and white residents in the area.

Overwhelming turnout for Walter Scott’s funeral

Some North Charleston residents have said they suspect abuse of power and public trust among law enforcement as issues that may have played a more pivotal role than race in Scott's death.

"It's not about the color of your skin, it's about social justice. When we all practice social justice we're all free," said Mattese Lecque, a North Charleston resident who heard Sharpton preach Sunday. "Sometimes it takes disaster to bring about change, and that's what's happening now."

Before concluding his sermon, Sharpton mentioned that South Carolina is an important state in the upcoming presidential race. He charged the congregation with pressing candidates about their stances on community policing.

"Don't let anybody run for president and come through South Carolina without addressing what they would do as president of the United States about police accountability," Sharpton said.

"Don't let them come through here and eat some sweet potato pie and sing with the choir and then get your vote on the cheap. Make them stand up and discuss your issues."

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