Justin Craven, a South Carolina police officer, was arrested Tuesday and charged with a felony over a shooting incident last year, when the 25-year-old cop killed Ernest Satterwhite at a traffic stop in Satterwhite’s own driveway.
Craven, a public safety officer in North Augusta, was the second South Carolina cop on the same day to face a felony charge in connection with the shooting death of a black man after a traffic stop.
Also on Tuesday, in a case drawing national attention and outrage this week, North Charleston Officer Michael Slager was charged with murder when a cell phone video showed him shooting unarmed Walter Scott at least five times in the back as Scott attempted to flee.
Craven, 25, faces a lesser charge of “discharging a firearm into a vehicle while occupied,” which carries a sentence of no more than 10 years — or as little as $1,000 fine upon conviction.
The charge against Craven stems from the February, 2014, death of 68-year-old Ernest Satterwhite in Edgefield County, South Carolina, well beyond the city limits of North Augusta.
Craven attempted to pull over Satterwhite, suspecting the retired mechanic was driving drunk. But Satterwhite didn’t stop. Instead, Craven pursued him to the man’s own driveway. When Satterwhite parked there, Craven approached his vehicle and suddenly fired five rounds into the car, hitting Satterwhite four times, killing him.
Satterwhite had a poor driving record, with about a dozen arrests for traffic offenses such as DUI or driving with a suspended license. On at least three previous occasions, according to his record, he was charged with failing to stop for a police officer.
But his record did not show that he ever fought with an officer, as Craven later claimed, saying that Satterwhite grabbed for his gun.
When Satterwhite crossed the county line, Craven ignored Edgefield deputies, who told him to back off as they took over the car chase, according to allegations in a lawsuit filed by Satterwhite’s family.
North Augusta already settled that suit, paying out $1.2 million to the victim’s family.
But when prosecutors tried to charge Justin Craven with manslaughter, a grand jury returned nothing but a misdemeanor charge of “misconduct in office.”
But on Tuesday, the State Law Enforcement Division filed an additional charge, the felony “discharging a firearm” allegation, and arrested Justin Craven — who was later released on his own recognizance.
[Image: Edgefield County Sheriff’s Office]