Another South Carolina Cop Charged in the Death of an Unarmed Black Man, Sparking Hope For More Police Accountability

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Justin Craven
Justin Craven

He was an unarmed Black man in South Carolina who deserved to live to see another day. But he probably never imagined that a traffic stop would end in him being gunned down by a police officer, even though he did not prove to be a threat at the time of the shooting.

You probably think this is another piece about the tragic death of Walter Scott, the unarmed Black man who was fatally shot multiple times by North Charleston police officer Michael Slager.

This is actually the eerily similar story behind the death of Ernest Satterwhite.

On the same day that Slager was charged with the death of 55-year-old Scott, another officer in South Carolina was being charged in the death of 68-year-old Satterwhite.

Back in February, North Augusta police officer Justin Craven responded to a call about a DUI that eventually led him to cross paths with Satterwhite.

A car chase ensued but it was soon revealed that Satterwhite had a very specific location in mind.

He drove straight to his house and pulled into his driveway.

At that moment, Craven parked his car and walked up to Satterwhite’s window.

The officer fired several times into the vehicle and later claimed that the suspect was reaching for a gun.

No weapon was found on Satterwhite or anywhere else in the vehicle, the Edgefield Daily reported.

Satterwhite died during surgery at the Trauma Center in Augusta.

On Tuesday, the officer was charged with “discharging a firearm into a vehicle while occupied,” a statement from the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED) revealed.

This felony charge could place the officer behind bars for a decade and force him to come out of pocket $1,000.

He was initially charged with a misdeameanor for “misconduct in office” back in September, but the SLED investigation resulted in the charge being bumped up to a felony.

It’s a move that adds Craven’s name to a growing list of cops in South Carolina who may actually be held accountable for taking Black people’s lives.

Ernest Satterwhite
Ernest Satterwhite

While the story of an unarmed Black man being gunned down by police is never any easier to listen to, at least these latest cases have the potential to present a different ending to the tragedies.

These stories might finally end in something that might actually be described as “justice.”

South Carolina seems to be one of the few states that has actually started following through with charging police officers who fatally shoot unarmed citizens.

A study conducted by Slate found that South Carolina police officers had shot more than 200 suspects in the past five years but only three had been charged with inappropriate use of force.

None of the officers have been convicted.

Only time will tell if the deaths of Satterwhite and Scott will finally change that.

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