South Carolina Highway Patrolman who shot Black motorist charged with felony assault
by Ann Garrison
Broadcast on the KPFA Weekend News Sept. 27, 2014
KPFA Weekend News Anchor: On Sept. 4, a white South Carolina highway patrolman, Sean Groubert, shot a Black motorist in Columbia, South Carolina. LeVar Jones, the shooting victim, survived a bullet in the hip. The South Carolina Department of Public Safety terminated Groubert over a week ago.
On Wednesday, Richland County’s chief prosecutor had Groubert arrested and charged with felony assault and battery. KPFA’s Ann Garrison spoke to Kevin Alexander Gray, a South Carolina native and co-editor of “Killing Trayvons: An Anthology of American Violence.”
KPFA/Ann Garrison: Kevin, the court released a video of this shooting three days ago, and people have already watched it 2,055,000 times on the YouTube. I’m sure I watched it at least 20 times myself, but I’d like you to describe it.
Kevin Alexander Gray: Well, what happened was, from what we’re hearing in the community, is that the young man was pulling into the gas station – and I’ve used that gas station; it’s right on the edge of the interstate. But the young man pulled into the gas station.
As he pulled into the gas station, he was taking his seat belt off. The highway patrolman followed him into the gas station. As he was getting out of his car, walking into the store, the officer got out of his car and asked him for his driver’s license. And the young man turned around to get his drivers’ license.
He first felt his pocket and then he turned around to get his driver’s license, probably out of the console of his car, and the officer started shooting. And even as the fella fell to the ground, he was more calm than the officer, saying, “Why did you shoot me? You asked me for my license. Why did you shoot me? I wasn’t going anywhere.”
So, it’s obvious that the person that got shot, Levar Jones, Mr. Jones was calmer in the situation than the officer.
And when it first happened, a reporter called me and asked me what did I think the highway patrol should do. And I said: Well, in the case where, earlier, they had a highway patrol officer who was fired by the department for threatening to taze somebody, an NFL player who was being compliant, the department fired him for misconduct.
Well, if you look at this video, the dash cam video, I said, the same standard ought to be applied to this young man that shot Mr. Jones. He shouldn’t have a gun. He should not be allowed to stop people. He is a danger to anybody who is stopped by him because any move, for him, is a dangerous move.
And then the idea of the seat belt law, particularly in South Carolina, was contentious, because many people thought that it was just an excuse to stop and profile Blacks or to raise revenue for the Highway Department. So, you had a lot of people who were opposed to the police having the power to stop you over the seat belt, not because they opposed driver safety, but it was because they knew that it would be used as a pretense.
So, compared to the way people responded in Ferguson, Missouri, the South Carolina Highway Patrol fired the guy and now he’s up on charges. They sure responded faster than the people in Ferguson did, where the officer hasn’t been charged.
KPFA/Ann Garrison: Well, Coby DuBose, writing in The Lone Dissent, says that Richland County Prosecutor Dan Johnson should recuse himself because he’s an eight year veteran of the Richland County Police Department, because he first stated that the use of force was warranted, and because he pressed charges only under tremendous pressure from local and national forces. Do you agree?
Kevin Alexander Gray: I think that Dan Johnson, being Black, was trying to show his tough-on-crime side, but there was great pressure from people in the community, where Officer Groubert once worked. There was pressure from the beginning to fire that young man and bring charges. From the very beginning of this case.
Rep. Joe Neal, a progressive here in South Carolina, in Richland County, was pressuring the Sheriff’s Department and the Highway Patrol, pressuring and getting Black state legislators to put pressure on the Highway Department.
I think ultimately, because the young man has been fired from his job, and hopefully he’ll never work in law enforcement again. I think, to be totally honest, the political process and people putting pressure on the South Carolina Highway Patrol, as compared to other cases that happened across this country – in Ferguson, in California, with the woman who was beat, although she got a settlement – if you think about the time frame in which this incident happened to this young man being behind bars and being charged with a crime, regardless of Dan Johnson trying’ to play tough, we put a lot of pressure on people to deal with this, because it is a threat to people.
It’s a threat to Black men in particular, when you don’t know how to respond to these police, and these young officers will try to dehumanize you, and these sadists will try to talk to you in a racist manner, and they will believe that they are the law and they can tell you to do anything. And regardless of how compliant you are with sadists, racists, they still might kill you.
I live in this city, and I’m going on radio to talk about this tomorrow, and I’ve been the president of the ACLU in this city and have dealt with police violence in this city for a long time, and as far as pressure in this particular case, to have it be resolved, especially in light of what happened in Ferguson, and government officials not wanting that to happen here in Columbia, at least this case is going through the judicial process, and charges have been filed against the police officer.
KPFA: And that was Kevin Alexander Gray, Columbia, South Carolina, native and co-editor of “Killing Trayvons: An Anthology of American Violence,” from Counterpunch Books.
For Pacifica, KPFA Radio, I’m Ann Garrison.
Oakland writer Ann Garrison contributes to the San Francisco Bay View, Counterpunch, Global Research, Colored Opinions, Black Agenda Report and Black Star News and produces radio news and features for Pacifica’s WBAI-NYC, KPFA-Berkeley and her own YouTube Channel. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you want to see Ann Garrison’s independent reporting continue, please contribute on her website, anngarrison.com.
Family of man shot by trooper releases statement
This is the full statement from the LaVar Jones family:
“We woke up after Sept. 4, 2014, changed forever and thankful that we have another day of life. In just a few seconds, the notion of life did not exist for LeVar as he heard gunshots coming from Officer Groubert at the gas station, based on no trigger or instigation except the color of his skin or, perhaps, his unyielding compliance.
“Yesterday, along with all of you, was the first time we saw the reality unfold before our eyes through the video release – the trauma is indescribable. We have to take some time to process just what stand we will take in this unexpected call for social justice.
“There are several people who never had to chance to ask, “What did I do, sir?” Moreover, there are many others whose stories are untold absent video surveillance.
“We plan to speak from a standpoint of social action and awareness of the racial issues our country has become so complacent in discussing until the tragedies of recent times. However, today, in reliving the moments through the video, we are hurt and speechless, with hope that justice prevails.
“Thank you all for your prayers and support.”
The statement was published by WLTX and signed by Arnette Dorsey, Esq., the family’s attorney.