Walter Scott’s family and friends gathered at Live Oak Cemetery in North Charleston, South Carolina, on Monday, April 4, 2016, to pray, lay flowers on his grave and release balloons in blue and white, the colors of the Dallas Cowboys, which was Walter’s favorite football team.
Scott, a 50-year-old unarmed black man, was fatally shot by police officer Michael Slager, 34, in North Charleston. While his family’s grief has lessened since the father of four died, their pain remains, lurking just below the surface.
“It’s painful, we miss him every day,” older brother Anthony Scott tells PEOPLE.
His mother, Judy Scott, told the group of mourners at the cemetery, “If someone told me I would have to stand here at Live Oak Cemetery, my son in this grave – a mother is not supposed to bury her son.”
After Scott’s death, the city took swift action, arresting Slager on murder charges. But Slager’s trial remains far in the future, scheduled for Oct. 31, 2016. (Scott’s trial was pushed until then because Solicitor General Scarlett Wilson is also prosecuting Dylann Roof, the white suspect in the killing of nine black parishioners at a Charleston church, and a court order prevents her from trying other cases before that one.)
In the meantime, Slager is out on $500,000 security bond.
Scott’s father, who is also named Walter Scott, says the family is angry with the decision to release Slager.
“If we let him out, he’s going to go home to see his wife and children,” he said at Slager’s bond hearing. “All I can look at is a pot of flowers.”
A Fateful Traffic Stop
Slager stopped Scott early on a Saturday morning for a broken tail light. Scott exited his car and ran on foot – his family says because he owed child support – and Slager ran after him.
The incident ended with Scott’s death after Slager allegedly fired eight bullets. According to the autopsy four shots hit Scott, including the last one in the back, which brought Scott to the ground.
Slager, who had been with the police force for five years, allegedly said initially that Scott did not comply when stopped for a broken tail light. He maintained that Scott tried to grab his stun gun.
Slager claimed he was acting in self-defense when he shot, but three days later a bystander’s video surfaced challenging Slager’s account. Slager was fired, arrested and charged with first-degree murder.
Andy Savage, Slager’s attorney, did not respond to PEOPLE’s calls. He has however, insisted that his client fired at Scott to stop a threat. Savage has contended that Scott, who he alleged was under the influence of drugs, attacked his client and grabbed Slager’s taser.
As Scott’s family struggled to understand the events leading to Walter’s death, they called for peace, and praised city officials for quickly condemning officer Slager’s actions and charging him with murder.
They were proud to stand with South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley when she signed a bill requiring all law enforcement in South Carolina to wear body cameras. The bill was originally introduced in December 2014, but it was fast-tracked after Walter’s death.
“I have a lot of praise for the changes that have been made, although the process has been slow,” Anthony Scott tells PEOPLE. “We are proud that South Carolina officers are now wearing body cameras, although it hasn’t become Federal law yet.”
Family Members Dealing with the Loss in Their Own Way
Anthony says family members are dealing with Walter’s loss in their own ways. Walter’s mother still misses her son, who would call her mother his “smurf.” She remembers his favorite meal: Ham and macaroni and cheese.
Meanwhile, Scott’s children still struggle to understand why they lost their father.
Anthony Scott tells PEOPLE that despite the fact that many family members have managed to find forgiveness, he is having a harder time – especially because Slager’s trial remains so far away.
“We’re never going to forget Walter,” Anthony says. “We’re never going to forget what happened, but knowing that this man [would be] in prison serving time for what he did, that would most certainly help,” he says.
He adds, “I think there’s nothing more I could ask for than to get justice.”