Was there a warrant out for Walter Scott, the 50-year-old South Carolina man killed by North Charleston police officer Michael Slager April 4?
Yes, although the Associated Press said there wasn’t Friday and now has apparently scrubbed its error.
Initial reports said that there was a warrant out for Scott for owed child support payments, indicating a possible reason for why he ran from the traffic stop.
But yesterday, the Associated Press reported that no, there was “no bench warrant” for Scott. News outlets including the Daily Mail and the Daily News repeated the claims. iMediaEthics read the AP article Friday morning.
— Sydney Smith (@SSmithWriter) April 10, 2015
But when iMediaEthics saw an article from the Charleston Post and Courier Friday night that said there was a warrant, we started investigating the discrepancies. “A warrant had been issued for his arrests because, once again, he hadn’t paid his child support,” the Post and Courier reported April 10.
We went back to the April 10 AP article Friday night but the original claim that “there was no bench warrant” has apparently been scrubbed from the article. Mediaite also reported that AP said there was no warrant out.
“The Associated Press reported on Friday that while Scott owed $7,500 in back payments for child support, there was no bench warrant issued for his arrest at the time of his death. Officer Slager fatally shot Scott in the back as the latter ran away after an alleged scuffle in North Charleston, S.C,” Mediaite reported.
Fox News and NBC News both countered the AP’s reporting, confirming that there was a warrant out for Scott.
Fox News’s John Roberts tweeted “there WAS an active bench warrant for Walter Scott’s arrest on the day he died.”
Despite reports to the contrary – there WAS an active bench warrant for Walter Scott’s arrest on the day he died. He owed $18,104.43
— John Roberts (@johnrobertsFox) April 10, 2015
NBC News reported: “Walter Scott owed more than $18,000 in child-support payments and had a bench warrant for his arrest when he was fatally shot by a South Carolina police officer, according to court documents obtained by NBC News.”
NBC News added: “The information in the documents appeared to contradict an Associated Press report early Friday. Citing court records, the AP had reported that no bench warrant had been issued for Scott. It also reported that he owed nearly $7,500 in child-support payments.”
Likewise, USA Today, the Post and Courier, the LA Times and others are reporting still that there was a warrant. The Charleston City Paper reported April 13: “Charleston County Family Court had an active bench warrant out for Scott’s arrest, according to a county spokesman.”
iMediaEthics hasn’t seen any correction from the AP about the warrant reporting. There is a separate correction on other stories by the AP acknowledging the AP wrongly stated Scott “was honorably discharged from the Coast Guard” when he was discharged “as a general discharge under honorable conditions.”
That correction reads: “In a story April 9 about the shooting of an unarmed black man by a white police officer, The Associated Press reported erroneously that the man, Walter Scott, was honorably discharged from the Coast Guard. Scott was granted a lesser discharge, known as a general discharge under honorable conditions, because of a drug-related incident.”
A later story by the AP, published today April 13, reports “A warrant had been issued for his arrest.”
iMediaEthics has written to the AP to ask if it posted a correction. We’ve also left messages with the North Charleston police.
Disclosure: The author of this report, Sydney Smith, freelanced for the Post and Courier from 2002-2004 and also from 2009 to 2011.
Updated 9:13 PM EST to fix dates