Former South Carolina officer Justin Craven, who is accused of fatally shooting an elderly man in his own driveway, was sentenced to three years probation on Monday. The incident sparked national attention as the unarmed black man was killed by a Caucasian police officer.
According to reports, Ernest Satterwhite, 68, led Craven on a 13-mile slow-speed chase following a traffic violation. Dash cam footage confirms the chase began in North Augusta and continued to the suspect’s Edgefield County home.
During the chase, the suspect reportedly drove erratically through a Wal-Mart parking lot and swerved towards oncoming traffic, hitting two vehicles in the process. Authorities confirmed nobody was injured in either of the crashes.
Justin Craven So Carolina police officer charged with felony shooting of black man in driveway gets 3yrs probation?? pic.twitter.com/vEuOXZt1w9
— Dan (@pastalover731) April 12, 2016
The chase then continued toward Satterwhite’s home. The dash cam footage shows Justin Craven parking his vehicle in the street before exiting the cruiser to meet the suspect in the driveway.
As reported by WLTX, Craven can be seen approaching Ernest Satterwhite’s car with his gun drawn. As evidenced in the video, Ernest Satterwhite stuck his hands out the car window and appears to be reaching for the officer’s gun — which prompted Justin Craven to open fire.
Craven later explained that he feared for his life because Satterwhite was trying to wrench the gun from his hands.
An autopsy report revealed Satterwhite was intoxicated, with a blood-alcohol level of 0.15 percent, which is twice the legal limit.
Justin Craven watching dashcam of officer-involved shooting of Ernest Satterwhite. Right now, just police chase. pic.twitter.com/LcVfOiv9aY
— Maayan Schechter (@MaayanSchechter) April 11, 2016
According to U.S. News, Ernest Satterwhite’s death was captured on video from Craven’s dashboard camera. However, the State Law Enforcement Division refused to release the footage until Craven entered his guilty plea on Monday.
Some officials, who viewed the video prior to its official release, said Craven obviously panicked and opened fire when Satterwhite moved his hands toward the gun. Some viewers suggested Satterwhite was not grabbing for the gun and was instead trying to push it away because it was pointed at his head.
Rep. Joe Neal, who had an opportunity to view the video, has spent decades speaking against racism in law enforcement. In his opinion, “What [Craven] did was murder this man and the judicial system just let him get away with it.”
In addition to the criminal case, the city of North Augusta paid Ernest Satterwhite’s family nearly $1.2 million to settle a civil lawsuit. Augusta Chronicle reports the lawsuit claimed Craven refused to allow Edgefield deputies to take over the chase when it entered their county.
The lawsuit also alleges Satterwhite never attempted to grab the officer’s gun before he was shot four times. The family was also disturbed because the grandfather and former mechanic was forcibly pulled out of the car and left unattended in the driveway where he eventually bled to death.
The former officer’s legal team argued that police records indicate Ernest Satterwhite was arrested over a dozen times for traffic violations, including three times for attempting to flee police officers. However, he was never cited for using physical force against an officer.
During his criminal trial, officer Justin Craven pleaded guilty and was sentenced to three years probation on Monday. In addition to the probation, Craven will be forced to serve 80 hours of community service.
After Monday’s hearing, Justin Craven’s attorney, Jack Swerling, said, “his mistake in judgment was approaching the car and getting too close. He had to make a split-second decision instead of like now when everyone have the luxury of time to analyze it.”
Swerling also confirmed his client retired and would not be returning to law enforcement. “I mean this will prohibit him from getting re-certified by the criminal justice academy, which is a shame, but he’s moved on, he’s got another job, he’s got a four-month-old child.”
Prosecutors originally sought to charge Justin Craven with voluntary manslaughter, which carries a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison. However, a grand jury refused to indict him on the charge.