Trooper Sean Groubert, 31, faces felony assault charges after firing four shots at motorist Levar Jones during an incident that occurred Sept. 4 near Columbia, SC. The shooting appears to be a routine traffic stop – right up until the point Groubert opens fire.
Groubert faces one count of assault and battery of a high and aggravated nature, according to the arrest warrant. If convicted, he faces 20 years in prison.
Video from the incident was released by authorities Wednesday (please note that the video is violent in nature and may be disturbing). It shows Groubert pulling up in his cruiser behind Jones, who was already exiting his vehicle in the parking lot of a gas station.
Groubert asks, "Can I see your license please?" Jones turned back toward his truck to retrieve his license, and four seconds after the trooper made his request, he opens fire.
"I'm just getting my license, you said get my license!" Jones says, shortly after putting his hands up and falling to the ground. "Why did you shoot me?" After a few moments of commotion, the officer says, "Well, you dove headfirst back into your car."
At the 1:57 mark of the video, Jones asked why the trooper pulled him over, and Groubert replies, "For a seat-belt violation, sir." Jones replies that he had just taken it off as he pulled into the gas station.
Jones was shot once in the hip, and The State newspaper reports he has been released from an area hospital and is recovering at home.
The magistrate who signed the arrest warrant wrote that the shooting was "without justification." The case will be prosecuted by the Fifth Circuit Solicitor's Office. The State, South Carolina's largest newspaper, reported there were five previous complaints against Groubert in his personnel file.
The shooting came less than one month after a similar incident in Ferguson, MO, in which another white police officer shot an unarmed black man, sparking protests over aggressive law-enforcement tactics.