South Carolina Trooper Charged with Assault After Shooting Unarmed Black Man During Traffic Stop

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Sean Groubert

Sean Groubert

A measure of justice was meted out Wednesday in South Carolina, when a white South Carolina state trooper was arrested for the shooting of an unarmed Black man during a traffic stop in Columbia earlier this month.

Trooper Sean Groubert, 31, was charged with assault and battery of a high and aggravated nature for shooting 35-year-old Levar Jones after he stopped him for a seat belt violation. Groubert was fired last week and faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted.

The entire Sept. 4 incident was captured by the trooper’s dashboard camera. It shows Jones exiting his vehicle after pulling up next to the Circle K gas station’s convenience store. As Jones is standing next to the open door of his truck, Groubert asks for his license. When Jones leans back into the car, Groubert immediately starts shooting, firing off at least three shots.

One of the bullets hit Jones in the hip. After being hospitalized, he is reportedly recovering at home, according to media reports.

While shooting at Jones, Groubert can be heard yelling, “Get out of the car, get out of the car.” Then he yells at Jones to “Get on the ground” and then “Put your hands behind your back.”

“Are you hit?” Groubert asks Jones.

“I think so. I can’t feel my legs,” Jones answers. Then he asks, “Why did you shoot me?”

“You dove back into your car,” Groubert says.

Jones replies, “I just got my license. You said get my license.”

“Why were you pulling me over?” Jones asks.

“Seat belt violation, sir,” Groubert says.
“Seat belt violation?” an incredulous Jones responds. “I took it off as I was pulling into the gas station.”
Jones can be heard moaning. “I drive for a medical courier, sir,” he says. “That’s my picture ID.”
“Why was I shot? All I did was reach for my license,” he asks again. “I’m coming from work.”
Jones remains courteous throughout the entire ordeal.
When South Carolina Department of Public Safety Director Leroy Smith fired Groubert on Sept. 19, after observing the video and reviewing a report from the State Law Enforcement Division, he called the case “disturbing.”

Barney Geise, Groubert’s attorney, told reporters his client is not guilty and is looking forward to his day in court.

The charges against Groubert were filed by the Fifth Circuit Solicitor’s office. Groubert’s attorney is a former Fifth Circuit Solicitor.

The incident once again calls into question what goes through an officer’s mind when he encounters a Black man on the job. The speed with which many officers resort to violence and shooting suggests they are quick to see criminals and danger where there aren’t any, resulting in harm and death for too many young Black males.

Would Groubert have pulled his trigger multiple times if it was a white female reaching back into her car for her license, or an Asian male? If a Black man can’t retrieve his license in Columbia, South Carolina, during a routine traffic stop without getting hit by an officer’s bullet, we all have a big problem.

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