Dash cam captures South Carolina trooper shooting unarmed man during traffic stop

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(CNN) -- One moment, a man reaches into his vehicle after a South Carolina trooper asked for his driver's license.

Seconds later, the trooper shoots him, and the man asks why. Days later, prosecutors aren't satisfied with the answer.

Authorities released dash-camera video Wednesday showing what they say is Sean Groubert, then a South Carolina Highway Patrol trooper, shooting Levar Jones, who was unarmed, in the parking lot of a gas station just outside Columbia on September 4.

Jones, 35, survived the shooting. But Groubert, who was fired because of the incident last week, has been charged with aggravated assault and battery, a felony that could get him up to 20 years in prison if convicted, the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division said Wednesday.

"The force administered in this case was unwarranted, inconsistent with how our troopers are trained, and clearly in violation of department policies," state Public Safety Director Leroy Smith said while announcing Groubert's firing Friday.

'Why did you shoot me?'

Police said Groubert, 31, stopped Jones in the parking lot of a Circle K station in daylight, for what police say was an alleged seat belt violation, around 5 p.m.

Video that authorities say was recorded from Groubert's police car shows the trooper driving up to a vehicle just as its driver -- who authorities say is Jones -- steps out of the vehicle.

When Groubert asks for Jones' license, Jones pivots toward the vehicle he just exited -- the driver's door is still open -- and leans inside as if to retrieve something, the video shows.

About two seconds later, the trooper that police identify as Groubert comes into view with a gun drawn and yells "Get out of the car! Get out of the car!" The gun is fired -- at least four shots are heard -- and Jones steps away from the vehicle, raising his hands in the air and eventually moving off camera.

"I just got my license! You said get my license!" says someone off camera, apparently Jones.

After being told to put his hands behind his back, Jones asks: "What did I do, sir?"

"Are you hit?" asks another off-camera voice, apparently Groubert's.

"I think so," comes the response. "I can't feel my leg. I don't know what happened."

The conversation continues:

"Why did you shoot me?"

"Well, you dove head-first back into your car. Then you (unintelligible), I'm telling you get out of your car."

Shot in the hip

Jones was shot in the hip, CNN affiliate WACH reported. He was taken to a hospital and later released, authorities said.

Jones was found not to be armed, Smith said.

"I believe this case was an isolated incident in which Mr. Groubert reacted to a perceived threat where there was none," Smith said last week.

In a court hearing Wednesday night, a judge ordered Groubert held with bond set at $75,000, WACH reported.

In explaining Groubert's firing Friday, Smith said the department's policy on using force says that officers can use "only the level of force necessary to accomplish lawful objectives."

"That protocol was not followed in this case. Further, this incident occurred in broad daylight. Mr. Groubert had a clear and unobstructed view of Mr. Jones," Smith said.

The shooting, Smith said, "deviates from SCDPS standards and cannot be tolerated."


  • Brian Gifford

    Personally, I would have told the officer i left the wallet in the vehicle before reaching back in. It’s the what ifs that are causing a lot of cop problems. With everything that’s going on in our nation, he could have just as easily been reaching back in for a gun to shoot the officer with. I don’t think he should get the felony charges for the misunderstanding. He already lost his job and Jones will assuredly get a settlement from it. Remember everybody “ALWAYS make your actions known to police officers”. What they don’t know can kill you. Be smart

    • Michael

      It’s not the victim’s fault he got shot. Our officers aren’t getting shot and killed everyday on the street, it’s just paranoia that the facts don’t back up.

      Even when he dropped his wallet the trooper fires 2 more rounds. Even when the man was on the ground and it was obvious the trooper was in the wrong, the trooper showed no remorse and kept trying to go along with the stop. He should be fired (done) and prosecuted (to come).

      Don’t worry about his trial. Jurors today deify those with a chunk of metal on their chest. The system protects cops no matter how wrong they are such as with Kelly Thomas or Rodney King or Luis Rodriguez (and likely Eric Gardner). And when these cops do get off, their union buddies get them their badge back.

  • carlyseldon

    So, we’re blaming the victim? And what’s going on in our nation, that this police officer should have been scared for his life? Seems to me the victim should have been more frightened, and with good cause.

  • KB

    I can understand the officer pulling his gun. He didn’t know if that man was getting a gun. But to fire at him like that was uncalled for. I’m glad he lost his job! We don’t need officers like that out there! I hope the victim recovers quickly and sues that dude. Gives a bad name to law enforcement.

  • Nuclear Mike

    With so many ex-military being recruited into local law enforcement the tendency to “over react” in a split second is the result of the fear from combat…I bet this officer had previous served in a armed conflict.

    • Michael

      I’m completely torn with that issue every time it gets brought up (and I’m glad you did).

      On one hand yeah it seems like a bad idea that veterans, especially the younger ones that did tour(s) in Iraq and Afghanistan fighting real terrorist threats, and are now conditioned to think that the worst will happen, are now given badges and unleashed like animals by the government on to American citizens. War is nasty. Our soldiers see some of the worst stuff a human can think of over there. It can really desensitize a man to where they show no remorse, like Trooper Groubert shows none even when it’s clear he was in the wrong afterwards. Having said this, I have no idea if Groubert has any military background or not.

      On the other hand, the way the military discipline works is night and day compared to law enforcement. Military soldiers are way more disciplined in their training than LEOs are. There are also way more checks and balances the military go through to ensure there aren’t any incidents that could weaken support for the mission or, Heaven forbid, create an international conflict. The military also doesn’t have the backing of powerful unions like LEOs do that often make it very difficult for departments to rid themselves of dangerous policemen,

  • NRA Is Here To Stay

    Everyone, Please help control the Liberal Obama Population, Have your “Lib” Spayed/Neutered. That’s the only hope for America!! Start with @ Say What!!

  • Terry Le Dactyl

    Absolutely Insane.
    Cameras are now documenting the truth.
    BTW…what an incredibly beautiful young man. Even after the officer shot him…he was still respectful and kind. Wow.
    If he had been killed by the first bullet, we would have never heard his precious voice captured on the video.

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