COLUMBIA, SC — Dashcam video captured the moment an unarmed man was shot by a state trooper while being confronted about alleged not wearing a seatbelt.
The motorist, 35-year-old Levar Jones, pulled into a Columbia convenience store parking lot on September 4th, 2014.
South Carolina State Trooper Sean Groubert was lurking in his cruiser adjacent to the parking lot, and watched as Mr. Jones slowly pull his white pickup truck into the lot. Officer Groubert waited a moment for Mr. Jones to park, then pulled his cruiser up behind the truck.
The reason for approaching Mr. Jones, it was later revealed, was that Officer Groubert allegedly witnessed the driver pulling into the parking lot without a seatbelt on.
Video shows that Mr. Jones had already parked and exited his vehicle when the officer pulled up behind him. Officer Groubert exited his cruiser, and gave instructions for Jones to produce his driver’s license.
Mr. Jones responded to the officers directions by turning around and leaning into his vehicle to find his license. Seeing this, the trooper immediately drew his gun and began to shout at Jones.
“Get out of the car!” the trooper shrieked. He began firing his pistol at Mr. Jones’ back.
Jones, who was unarmed, was struck in the hip with a bullet, and pleaded for the officer to stop.
After 2 shots were fired, Mr. Jones backed up, with his hands clearly in the air. The trooper fired at least 2 more times.
“I just got my license. You said get my license,” Mr. Jones could be heard saying on the video.
“Sir, why was I shot? All I did was reach for my license,” Mr. Jones asked the officer. “I’m coming from work.”
See the video below:
The incident offers another stark reminder that dealing with the police is inherently dangerous. Officers are inundated with training videos that cause them to interpret deadly threats when they do not actually exist. Paranoid law enforcers have been known to shoot people holding their wallets, walking canes, hats, video game controllers, and sometimes nothing at all.
Even when the “suspect” has done nothing wrong, and the interaction is over some menial infraction, the outcome can be deadly.
* * * * *
In a somewhat surprising display of accountability, the South Carolina State Police fired Sean Groubert within a week of the shooting. He was also charged with “assault and battery of a high and aggravated nature,” a charge that could lead to up to 20 years in prison if convicted.
Groubert’s defense attorney argues that the trooper reasonably feared for his life because he thought Mr. Jones might have been reaching for a gun.
Levar Jones was hospitalized for his wounds and released. He is expected to recover.