US South Carolina shooting
Officer Michael Slager faces up to 30 years in jail after being charged with the murder Handout/Reuters

A South Carolina judge has approved a bond set at $500,000, according to court records. Under the conditions of Slager's bail, state circuit judge Clifton Newman, whom the state Supreme Court appointed to oversee the case has decided that the ex-police officer will be under house arrest and cannot have any contact with Scott's family.

Newman said Slager would be able to leave his home only for court hearings and to visit his attorneys, doctors or church. He was freed on Monday afternoon, according to the Charleston County Sheriff's Office.

The ruling is a reversal of an earlier judgement in September, when Slager was denied a bond after lawyers argued he was a flight risk and a danger to the community. Slager's legal team sought a motion placing him under house arrest. They argued that Slager did not have a criminal record and had been considered low risk for violent behaviour.

Behind Newman's decision was an order from the state Supreme Court that cleared prosecutors from trying other cases before accused mass murderer Dylann Roof's trial this summer. This was the reason for Slager's trial set for 31 October. The prospect of more months behind bars prompted Newman to reconsider his September decision denying bail.

The decision was met with horrified gasps from Scott's family and with tears from Michael Slager's wife and parents, who appeared together for the first time in the Charleston courtroom.

Scott's father, Walter Scott Sr., thought Slager should be kept behind bars. "I don't think Mr. Slager had any remorse after watching that video," he said in a Post and Courier report. "Every time I look at it, it makes me cry. ... I feel he should stay where he's at so he could feel the pain I feel."

On 4 April, Slager pulled over Scott, reportedly for a broken brake light. Scott was later shot in the back by Slager as he was running away.

A bystander recorded the shooting, with Slager firing eight times at Scott, who was unarmed. The footage sparked outrage and reignited a national debate around race and policing. Scott was black and Slager is white. The police officer, who was fired from his job as a patrolman, faces from 30 years to life in prison without parole if he is convicted of murder.