For the second time in recent months, a South Carolina officer has inched closer to being held accountable for killing an unarmed Black man.
Shortly after murder charges were announced against officer Michael Slager in the death of 50-year-old Walter Scott, it has been revealed that Ernest Satterwhite’s killer will have to stand trial.
Justin Gregory Craven, a 25-year-old police officer in North Augusta, was indicted on Wednesday on a felony charge of firing his weapon into a vehicle while it was occupied.
It’s an action that took Satterwhite’s life and added his name to the ever-expanding list of “stolen voices” that have been silenced with the loud bang of an officer’s gun.
The 68-year-old South Carolina resident was approached by the officer back in February of 2014 after Craven attempted to pull him over roughly 13 miles further down the road.
Instead of immediately stopping, Satterwhite drove his car to his home. When Craven approached the vehicle, he claimed that he saw Satterwhite reaching for a weapon before he pulled out his own and fired into the vehicle multiple times.
No weapon was found in Satterwhite’s car.
Craven admitted to shooting into Satterwhite’s window but is hoping that his self-defense claim will hold up better than that of his colleague’s.
Initially, it did.
A grand jury refused to indict Craven on a voluntary manslaughter charge but when officials pursued the new felony charge, the grand jury didn’t seem to have as many doubts.
“There’s been no evidence that Mr. Satterwhite was armed,” state prosecutor Donnie Myers told Reuters.
The case may prove to be yet another example of how important video evidence is in the indictment of a police officer, even if that tape hasn’t been released to the public. While the police have decided not to show the dash cam footage that captured the fatal shooting, it’s likely that it helped refute Craven’s claims of self defense in court.
But as the city of Cleveland just learned, it will take more than an indictment to see justice served.
The indictment against Craven comes shortly after Cleveland police officer Michael Brelo was acquitted on manslaughter charges. Brelo was among the group of officers that sent more than 130 bullets flying into Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams’ windshield following a high-speed chase.
There were also allegations that Brelo stood on the hood of the unarmed pair’s vehicle and fired 15 shots at such a close range and ultimately killed them both.
Even though his shoe prints were left on the hood of the car, however, Brelo insisted he didn’t remember climbing on top of the car and was ultimately allowed to walk free.
But fingers are crossed that South Carolina will emerge as a state willing to hold police officers accountable for their actions, especially when they are taking the lives of unarmed citizens.
If Craven is found guilty of the felony weapons charge, he could face up to 10 years in prison and fine of $1,000, Thom Berry, a spokesman for the State Law Enforcement Division, told Reuters.
Berry also revealed that defense attorneys are fighting to not have the video released to the public at all.
The trial is expected to start in the fall and will certainly garner the attention of all those across the nation who have been tirelessly chanting, “Black lives matter.”