Dashboard video shows shooting of unarmed driver
A South Carolina state trooper's dashboard video shows an unarmed driver being shot just seconds after he was stopped for a seatbelt offense — and the trooper, who was fired last week, has now been charged with assault.
As Levar Jones cried in pain waiting for an ambulance, he repeated one question: "Why did you shoot me?"
Jones' painful groans and then-Trooper Sean Groubert's reply, "Well you dove head first back into your car", were captured by the camera.
Groubert's boss, state Public Safety Director Leroy Smith, called the video "disturbing" and said "Groubert reacted to a perceived threat where there was none" as he fired the officer.
The 31-year-old former trooper is charged with assault and battery of a high and aggravated nature, a felony that carries up to 20 years in prison. He was released after paying 10 percent of a $75,000 bond.
The dashboard camera video was released by prosecutors after they showed it at Groubert's bond hearing.
Jones was stopped earlier this month as he pulled into a convenience store on a busy Columbia road.With the camera recording, Groubert pulls up without his siren on as Jones is getting out of his vehicle to go into the store.
"Can I see your license please?" Groubert asks.
As Jones turns and reaches back into his car, Groubert shouts, "Get outa the car, get outa the car." He begins firing before he has finished the second sentence. There is a third shot as Jones staggers away, backing up with his hands raised, and then a fourth.
From the first shot to the fourth, the video clicks off three seconds.
Jones' wallet can be seen flying out of his hands as he raises them.
Groubert's lawyer, Barney Giese, said the shooting was justified because the trooper feared for his life and the safety of others.
"You are doing exactly what the police officer asked you do to and you get shot for it?" said Neal, D-Hopkins. "That's insane."
Neal said he doubts the trooper would have been charged without the video. South Carolina has nearly 300 police agencies, and many smaller forces don't have dashboard cameras.
"If it had been the trooper's story versus his story, I'm not sure anything happens," Neal said.
Jones is recovering after being shot in the hip. He released a statement last week saying he hopes his shooting leads to changes in how police officers treat suspects.
"I thank God every day that I am here with a story to tell and hope my situation can make a change," Jones said.
He and his lawyer have not spoken publicly since Groubert was charged.
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