Court trials will be under way this week for two white police officers accused of killing black motorists during separate traffic stops in 2015 – videotaped incidents that have helped fuel a firestorm of racial tension across the U.S.
Jury selection begins Monday in the trial of Michael Slager, 34, who is charged with a state murder count in the April 2015 shooting death of Walter Scott, 50, in North Charleston, S.C.
Slager, a former North Charleston police officer, also faces three charges, including a civil rights violation, in federal court.
A witness to the incident captured the actual shooting on video — but not all the events leading up to Slager opening fire on Scott.
Meanwhile, former University of Cincinnati police officer Ray Tensing, 26, is expected to testify in his own defense at his murder trial. Tensing is charged with murder in the shooting death of Sam DuBose, 43, during a July 2015 traffic stop in a Cincinnati neighborhood near the UC campus.
The incident and what happened afterward was videotaped on police bodycams worn by Tensing and other responding officers.
Opening arguments in Tensing’s trial could begin Tuesday after juror questioning on Monday; testimony starts on Nov. 7.
Also in Charleston, Dylann Roof, 22, is scheduled to stand trial on Nov. 7 in federal court for hate crimes in the June 2015 shooting deaths of nine black worshipers at the city's Emmanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church.
Friends of Roof, who is white, have told investigators that Roof had intended to start a race war by killing African Americans. Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced in May that the Justice Department would seek the death penalty. Roof also faces a state death penalty trial, currently scheduled for January.
The highly publicized shooting incidents in Charleston and Cincinnati have been among many that have put race and police-community relations at the forefront of debate across the U.S.
Since 2015, more than 1,700 people have been shot and killed by police officers nationwide, about a quarter of them black, according to data compiled from The Washington Post, which tracks fatal police shooting incidents.
With U.S. non-Hispanic black population at about 12.3%, that makes black Americans more than twice as likely to be shot and killed by police as white Americans, who make up about 62% of the U.S. population but only about half of the shooting victims.
Vehicles were involved in about 14% of the nearly 450 shooting deaths by police of black Americans since 2015, such as the incidents with Slager and Tensing.
Slager stopped Scott's car April 4, 2015, in a North Charleston neighborhood for a broken brake light. After questioning Scott about his Mercedes-Benz, Slager said Scott jumped out of the car and ran. Slager gave chase and used a Taser to subdue Scott. The two struggled as Slager tried to handcuff Scott.
Slager said Scott jerked the Taser away and stepped toward him with the weapon before the policeman opened fire. But witnesses say Slager is lying about the encounter, and a video of the shooting shows Scott turning away and the Taser falling to the ground as Slager drew his gun.
Forensic evidence shows five of the eight bullets hit Scott from behind.
Tensing pulled DeBose over on July 19, 2015, for a missing front license plate.
After some questioning, Tensing told investigators that Dubose tried to drive away and that he feared being dragged under the vehicle. During a struggle at the driver’s side window that was recorded on Tensing’s bodycam, Tensing shot DuBose in the head.
Tensing’s bodycam shows DuBose’ car rolling several feet down the street before coming to rest at an intersection.