Michael Slager, a white officer in SC, was filmed shooting 50-year-old Walter Scott as he fled after Slager stopped him for having a broken brake light in April 2015.
The death of Walter Scott in April 2015 was one of the most shocking in a series of high-profile USA police shootings, often involving minorities, that have deepened tensions and added to distrust between officers and the communities they serve.
The officer, who was sacked after the shooting, "acted out of malice aforethought, shooting dead an unarmed and fleeing Walter Scott", Judge David Norton said Thursday. Slager followed and used a taser to stun Scott.
But Scott soon broke away, unarmed, and began to run again.
"Slager shot Scott five times in the back for running away, simply for having a broken taillight", Jared Fishman of the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division told in the court before the sentence was handed down. But video footage later showed Scott posed no threat given the 50-year-old was seen running in the opposite direction of the ex-cop.
The former policeman "acted with malice and forethought", said Norton, "shooting an unarmed and fleeing Walter Scott". The video went viral and prompted a national outcry, leading to the NCPD firing Slager.
Scott, who was at least 17 feet from Slager when the officer opened fire, fell to the ground. The judge "ruled that Slager committed second-degree murder and obstruction of justice", according to ABC News.
She said she forgave Michael Slager.
"I'm happy where we're at right now", Dixon said regarding Slager's sentencing.
"Judging by the history and characteristics of the defendant, he has lived a spotless life", Norton said before adding that, "Just punishment is in the eye of the beholder. Regardless, this is a tragedy that shouldn't have happened".
Walter Scott's mother, Judy, holds up a photo of him as she walks to the media tents pitched outside of the courthouse in downtown Charleston. "My heart breaks that things can not be changed", she said.
"I think it must be something else to why they would not release that", Anthony Scott said while walking back to his hotel after the sentencing.
"I know this will be on his heart for the rest of his life", Karen Sharp said.
A defense attorney says a white former SC law officer should be sentenced on the low end of guidelines being considered by a federal judge. A year ago, a state judge declared a mistrial when jurors deadlocked in that case. Slager pled guilty to the federal charge of violating Scott's civil rights in May as part of a plea deal that got him off the hook for state murder charges, which were to be re-issued after his 2016 state murder trial ended in a hung jury.