A recently released video from the dashboard camera of former South Carolina state trooper Sean Groubert reveals yet another instance of unprovoked violence from law enforcement. On September 4, Groubert shot unarmed 35-year-old Levar Jones several times at close range in the parking lot of a Circle K gas station/mini-mart.
Groubert claimed he pulled Jones over for a seatbelt violation, but Jones says he was wearing his seatbelt. When Jones stepped out of his car, Groubert asked Jones for his driver’s license.
But when Jones turned and reached into his car to get it, the officer shouted, “Get out of the car!” and pulled his gun on the unarmed man, whose back was facing the officer. He fired several shots at Jones, even as Jones was backing away from the car with his hands in the air.
“I was just getting my license! You said get my license!” moaned Jones on the ground. “What did I do? What did I do, sir?”
After confirming that Jones was wounded, Groubert called an ambulance and explained his reason for shooting: “Well, you dove head first back into your car, then you jumped back out. I’m telling you to get out of your car.”
Sean Groubert has since been fired, arrested, and assigned bail of $75,000. The video footage from the dashboard camera was played at his bond hearing. Groubert now faces 20 years in jail for assault and battery.
Unlike this episode, there is no video footage of the August shooting in Ferguson, where officer Darren Wilson killed 18-year-old Michael Brown. With the victim dead and no video recording available, Wilson is unlikely to ever be arrested. Ferguson highlighted the lack of accountability in some law enforcement departments and prompted a Missouri native to collect over 150,000 signatures on a petition requiring all state, county, and local police officers to wear body cameras. The idea was that video documentation would defer police brutality and make officers think twice before pulling the trigger.
While the camera mounted on Groubert’s dashboard didn’t prevent Jones from being shot, it did prompt South Carolina Department of Public Safety to respond to the incident with appropriate severity.