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A white South Carolina police officer was charged with murder for fatally shooting an unarmed black man during a traffic stop. A video surfaced yesterday showing North Charleston police officer Michael Slager, 33, shooting Walter Scott, 50, eight times as Scott attempted to run away after being pulled over for a malfunctioning brake light. Footage of the incident — shot by a bystander and first obtained by the New York Times and Charleston’s local paper, the Post and Courier — appears to contradict the account Slager’s then-attorney gave of the event, most notably that there was a struggle during the confrontation.
The footage of the fatal shooting of Scott follows video of Eric Garner, an unarmed black man who died in New York City after being put in a chokehold by a white police officer, and of Tamir Rice, a black and unarmed 12-year-old who was shot dead for carrying a fake gun in a park.
Grand juries in Ferguson, Missouri, and New York City in recent cases of white officers killing unarmed black men and boys have decided not to file charges. But at a news conference yesterday afternoon, the North Charleston mayor said that he had watched the video and that Slager would be charged with murder, with the possibility of a death sentence or a term of 30 years to life in prison. Slager was also fired from the police force and lost his attorney after the video surfaced yesterday. “What happened today doesn’t happen all the time,” the Scott family’s new attorney, Chris Stewart, said last night. “What if there was no video or no witness?”
And a little extra. A report from the Post and Courier in September found that while North Charleston’s population is 45% black, black officers make up just 17% of the police force. This disproportionate makeup of police departments relative to their communities results in a system in which policing is largely informed by predominantly white American beliefs about “black criminality, black superstrength, and black dangerousness,” as BuzzFeed News’ Adam Serwer wrote in December. (If you’d rather watch a short video on Serwer’s piece, we’ve got you covered.)
Rand Paul officially launched his presidential run, but the Republican candidate must now figure out just who exactly will support him. The Kentucky senator made the announcement on his website and followed up with a rally in his home state yesterday, before embarking on a tour through four early presidential primary states: New Hampshire, South Carolina, Iowa, and Nevada.
Paul has chiefly been characterized as a libertarian-leaning candidate who believes in cutting American foreign aid and is staunchly against the surveillance state — much like his father, former GOP presidential candidate and U.S. Rep. Ron Paul. But libertarians remain a relatively tiny voting population, as the New York Times’ Nate Cohn writes, and even among them, Paul appears to be steadily losing support, according to a FiveThirtyEight statistical model. Paul has attempted to broaden his appeal to more Republicans who tend to vote in presidential primaries, but he has so far struggled to effectively communicate to other voting demographics, BuzzFeed News’ McKay Coppins reports from Kentucky.
And a little extra. Paul accompanied his announcement with the launch of an online store that sells Rand Paul-branded merchandise, including an eye chart (Paul is an eye doctor) and an extremely large birthday card with Paul’s picture.
Ferguson elected as many black candidates yesterday as it had during its entire history. A former mayor and two black candidates won seats on Ferguson’s City Council following yesterday’s vote — the first election since unarmed black teenager Michael Brown was killed by a white police officer in August. Black candidates now hold half of Ferguson’s six council seats. During the protests that followed Brown’s death, one of the biggest complaints was that the city’s leadership was overwhelmingly white even as the population is mostly black, BuzzFeed News’ Jim Dalrymple II writes.
WE’RE KEEPING AN EYE ON
California officials are expected to strongly enforce water restrictions in the coming weeks as new numbers were released showing that the state insufficiently reduced its water usage. Water use in California dropped only 2.8% in February compared to the same period in 2013, a fraction of the 22% decrease in December, according to the Los Angeles Times. Facing the state’s fourth straight year of a historic drought, Gov. Jerry Brown imposed the state’s first-ever water restrictions last week.
“California is running through its water supply because, for complicated historical and climatological reasons, it has taken on the burden of feeding the rest of the country,” Steven Johnson writes in Matter. You can find out how much water goes into making your meals with this tool from the Los Angeles Times.
What’s next? The governor’s office will give local water agencies — each in charge of their own portion of the state — a reduction target based on how much water was used in that area, leaving local officials to figure out how to reach the governor’s water-saving benchmarks. Some communities might even be ordered to cut water use by as much as 35%. This New York Times interactive shows how water cuts could affect every community in California. Agencies that don’t meet their targets can be fined as much as $10,000 a day.
DID YOU HEAR ABOUT THIS?
74 children have been killed in Yemen since Saudi-led airstrikes began, the U.N. says. The UNICEF report said that those figures are likely to be conservative, as fighting has intensified since the airstrikes began on March 26. In total, more than 540 people have been killed and some 1,700 wounded in Yemen between March 19 and April 6, according to the World Health Organization.
The U.S. has secretly tracked billions of calls since 1992. Nearly a decade before the 9/11 attacks and the massive phone surveillance system that’s used to identify terrorists, the Justice Department and the Drug Enforcement Administration had been “harvesting billions of calls in a program that provided a blueprint for the far broader National Security Agency surveillance that followed,” Brad Heath reports in USA Today.
A Murder at La Casa Green, part two. Two men were eight years into their 80-year prison sentences for murder when an investigator began working to free them. This is part two of a four-part series looking at a wrongful conviction case that has baffled and frustrated for over 20 years. Missed part one? Here you go.
A New York judge has ruled that divorce papers can be served on Facebook. The case involved a woman who sent a divorce summons to her husband through a private Facebook message, because she didn’t have any other means to contact him. “A concept should not be rejected simply because it is novel or non-traditional,” Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Matthew Cooper wrote in the ruling. “This is especially so where technology and the law intersect.”
The White House was plunged into darkness yesterday after a power plant explosion in Maryland caused scattered power outages throughout the D.C. area. The outage also affected the Capitol, the State Department, and the commuter rail system. The blackout caught a State Department press briefing midway through its session, but Deputy Spokesperson Marie Harf, who was leading the briefing, completed it in the dark using a phone light to continue talking with reporters. Most of the power was restored later that afternoon.
HBO Now, the cable network’s standalone streaming service, has arrived. The service costs $15 a month, and is exclusively available for Apple iOS…for now. Apple’s exclusive hold on HBO Now reportedly lasts three months, and Sling TV users should expect access by the time the new “Game of Thrones” season premieres on April 12. Customers who sign up this month also get a free 30-day trial.
Google wants to save you from spoilers on social media. The company was just awarded a patent for a system that helps people block out social media posts containing sensitive information about TV shows, movies, and books that they haven’t consumed yet. The patent was first reported by Quartz, but be careful about clicking through — the post itself contains spoilers for a bunch of shows.
Quick things to know:
Rahm Emanuel wins a second term as Chicago mayor in a historic runoff election (Chicago Tribune)
Kansas becomes the first state to ban second-trimester abortion procedures (BuzzFeed News)
Google is preparing to launch a new service that connects search users with local home-service providers (BuzzFeed News)
Stanford University scientists have invented an aluminum battery that’s fast-charging and long-lasting (Stanford News)
A sculptor made a surprisingly creepy statue of famed actress Lucille Ball for her hometown in upstate New York. He publicly apologized after the town complained, and the town’s mayor is launching a Kickstarter to fix the statue (BuzzFeed News)
A quote that appears on Forever Stamps commemorating Maya Angelou belonged to another writer (BuzzFeed News)
And the first reviews of the Apple Watch are here (BuzzFeed News)
Seventeen-year-old Harold Ekeh was accepted into all 13 colleges he applied to — including all eight Ivy League schools. Ekeh, who came to the U.S. from Nigeria when he was 8, said he only expected to get into Stony Brook University, a state school near his home on Long Island. Ekeh has until May 1 to make his decision. You go, Harold!