A trial verdict might not be reached until next July for a former South Carolina police officer who was fired after shooting an unarmed black man for a seat belt violation.
On Monday, a solicitor requested that 270 days — the longest time possible — be allotted to reach a conclusion in the case of State Trooper Sean Groubert, The State reported. The solicitor can determine that a decision should be reached in 120, 180, or 270 days depending on the complexity of the hearings and the severity of the offense. The process was implemented in January 2003 to reduce the backlog of the county’s cases.
Groubert, who is white, stopped Levar Jones, who is black, for a seat belt violation on Sept. 4 in a gas station parking lot near Columbia, South Carolina. When Jones reached into his vehicle to grab his ID, Groubert suddenly discharged several gunshots at him, a dashboard camera in the officer’s cruiser allegedly showed.
“Get out of the car! Get out of the car!” Groubert is heard in the video shouting before firing off several rounds and telling Jones to drop to the ground.
“What did I do, sir?” Jones asked the officer after being shot. He was treated at a local hospital for an injury to the hip.
South Carolina Law Enforcement Division, which acts as an investigative unit, stated that Groubert “did without justification unlawfully shoot Levar Jones.” Groubert was fired, arrested, and charged with assault and battery of a high and aggregated nature, a felony with a penalty upon conviction of as many as 20 years in prison. He plead not guilty, and according to his lawyer, was justified in shooting Jones because he feared for his life and the safety of others.
South Carolina Department of Public Safety later released another version of the dashboard camera video, which is almost an hour long, in which Groubert tells an individual, who appears to be his supervisor, his own version of the incident. His account appears to be in stark contrast of the footage recorded by the camera.
“Before I could even get out of my car he jumped out, stared at me, and as I jumped out of my car and identified myself, as I approached him, he jumped head-first back into his car … he jumped out of the car. I saw something black in his hands.”
Police brutality recently has received renewed national attention since the shooting death of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown on Aug. 9 in Ferguson, Missouri. Protests and violence broke out in the St. Louis suburb following Brown’s death, and the community continues to demand justice. A grand jury is currently weighing whether or not to indict the officer who shot and killed Brown on criminal charges.
In Kansas City, Missouri, the FBI is investigating the case of a police tasing that put another cop’s son in critical condition and a medically-induced coma. And in Baltimore, Maryland, a cop was recently suspended after video footage surfaced of him apparently repeatedly beating a man.