Sean Groubert: Former South Carolina Trooper Guilty In Shooting Of Unarmed Man

Former South Carolina state Trooper Sean Groubert, 32, pleaded guilty in the 2014 shooting of 36-year-old Levar Jones on Monday. According to reports, Groubert shot the unarmed man during a routine traffic stop.

According to the South Carolina Department of Public Safety, Groubert initiated a traffic stop on the afternoon of September 4, 2014, at a Circle K convenience store in Columbia. In the dash-cam video, Steven Groubert can be seen approaching Jones’ vehicle in the parking lot without activating his lights or siren.

As the trooper neared his vehicle, Jones opened the door and stepped out. As reported by Daily Mail, former Trooper Groubert then parked his cruiser and approached the suspect on foot. When he asked to see the suspect’s drivers’ license, Jones promptly reached into the vehicle to retrieve it.

An incriminating dash-cam video shows Sean Groubert screaming, “Get out of the car!” Despite the fact that the unarmed man’s hands were raised high up in the air, the former trooper began firing his gun. Jones’ wallet can clearly be seen flying out of his hands as he staggers backward from being hit by a bullet in the hip.

“I just got my license. You said to get my license. I grabbed my license. Right there, that’s my license,” Jones is heard saying. The trooper proceeds to cuff the wounded man. “Put your hands behind your back,” he is heard saying. Jones, still stunned by what has happened, can be heard saying, “What did I do sir? I can’t feel my leg. I just grabbed my license. Why did you shoot me?” to which the trooper replies, “Well, you dove headfirst back into your car.”

Former South Carolina state Trooper Sean Groubert later admitted he stopped Jones for a seatbelt violation.

Jones was taken to hospital for treatment while Sean Groubert, who joined the South Carolina Highway Patrol in 2005, was placed on administrative. The former trooper was terminated on September 19 after the State Department of Public Safety obtained a report containing information from the audio tapes, dash-cam footage, audio tapes and witness accounts.

Five days later, Groubert was charged with aggravated assault and battery.

Leroy Smith, Director of the Public Safety Department, emphasized that the use of force is only permitted when it meets legal objectives. In his opinion, Groubert breached those policies because he perceived a threat where there clearly was none. Smith said Jones was pulled over in during the day and the trooper had every opportunity to see what he was reaching for during the stop before he opened fire.

“While Mr. Groubert was within the law to stop Mr. Jones for a safety belt violation, the force administered in this case was unwarranted, inconsistent with how our troopers are trained, and clearly in violation of department policies, these violations demonstrate behavior that deviates from SCDPS standards and cannot be tolerated.”

An attorney for the defendant claims Sean Groubert was justified in opening fire on Jones and contends the video could be interpreted in more than one way upon close scrutiny.

On Monday, the former state trooper pleaded guilty to felony assault and battery. According to reports, Sean Groubert pleaded guilty to avoid a lengthy trial. Washington Post reports he is facing up to 20 years in prison.

Levar Jones made a courtroom appearance on Monday. However, he was walking with a noticeable limp and was reportedly suffering from PTSD.

Sean Groubert’s shooting of an unarmed black man shocked the country and remains a grim reminder of the ongoing controversy surrounding questionable police shootings. The shooting brings to mind the August 2014 death of Michael Brown, who was shot and killed by a police officer, Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri. Like Levar Jones, Michael Brown was also unarmed.

[Mugshot Image via Soto Mayor TV]