Hundreds mourn at funeral of black man killed by US cop

SUMMERVILLE, United States (AFP) - Hundreds mourned Saturday at the funeral of an unarmed black suspect gunned down in a "disgraceful" shooting by a white officer, an episode that has raised questions about race and excessive force in the United States.

Walter Scott, a 50-year-old father of four, was shot five times in North Charleston, South Carolina after fleeing a routine traffic stop while a bystander caught the event on video.

Scott's body arrived at Word Ministries Christian Centre, where family, friends, politicians and law enforcement gathered to bury him.

His family declined to speak to reporters, but their lawyer Chris Stewart said that the family would not "be put in corners based on color, based on creed."

"Their son is going to be remembered for changing the way we look at each other, because next time something does happen to an individual, be he African American, you will now think maybe there's another side to the story," he said.

An overflow crowd of more than 100 people gathered under an awning outside in drizzling rain, unable to fit in the 400-person capacity church where Scott's casket was draped in an American flag with a Dallas Cowboys sign in honour of his favourite football team.

A funeral programme showed photos of the family along with the words "We Will Miss You."

Senator Tim Scott tweeted that he was attending the service.

"Thankful to have been able to pray and talk with his family this week," the South Carolina lawmaker added.

OFFICER'S ACTIONS 'DISGRACEFUL'

The officer who killed Scott, Michael Slager, 33, has been charged with murder and fired from the force. He faces life in prison or the death penalty if convicted.

"I will say that the officer's actions that day were very disgraceful to both the uniform and the badge that he was wearing," state lawmaker Justin Bamberg told reporters following the funeral.

The bystander video shows Scott running from Slager, who pulls his gun and fires eight shots, five of which hit Scott.

An earlier dash cam video shows Scott's car being pulled over by Slager, who asks for his registration before Scott runs away after Slager has returned to his own vehicle.

Scott's father said his son may have been running because he owed child support and did not want to return to jail.

South Carolina police said they were suspicious of the shooting from the beginning because of "inconsistencies" in Slager's initial reporting of events and multiple gunshot wounds in Scott's back.

Slager had said he felt threatened during his encounter with Scott.

North Charleston Mayor Keith Summey said the city's police will be required to wear body cameras in the future to record interactions with the public.

Demonstrators gathered for peaceful protests in North Charleston after the killing, with some demanding the city council create a citizens review board to look into police conduct.

Scott's family has called for greater accountability among police, and hopes Scott's death will spark reform within the force.

The shooting follows a series of similar incidents that have provoked outrage and protests across the United States, most notoriously the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri last August.

Though there are no comprehensive national statistics on how many people die in US police hands each year, Human Rights Watch estimates that out of a reported more than 2,700 police-involved deaths deemed "justifiable" by authorities between 2005-2011, just 41 officers were charged.

The US Justice Department has launched investigations into a number of police departments, including Ferguson's, after shootings.