COLUMBIA, S.C. — The unarmed black driver shot by a white South Carolina trooper as he reached for his wallet during a traffic stop said waiting six months for the officer to be sentenced is far too long.
Sean Groubert needs to be sentenced as soon as possible after pleading guilty in March to assault and battery of a high and aggravated nature and needs to receive the maximum 20-year sentence, Levar Jones said at a news conference Monday.
Groubert was taken out of the courtroom in handcuffs after his plea. Typically, defendants are sentenced as soon as they are found guilty in South Carolina but in Groubert’s case, Circuit Judge Casey Manning asked for a pre-sentencing report before deciding the former trooper’s punishment. Groubert has been jailed ever since and the reasons for the delay have not been explained.
Jones’ shooting was captured on Groubert’s dash-cam. Jones had parked his truck and was walking to a Columbia convenience store in September 2014 when Groubert, who spotted a seatbelt violation, demanded his license after pulling up without his siren.
Jones was shot after turning back and reaching into his truck. The video shows his wallet fly out of his hands. Groubert’s boss fired him shortly after viewing the video.
There is no minimum sentence for Groubert’s crime. But Jones has created a website with a petition demanding sentencing take place now and that Groubert receive the maximum sentence. He said a South Carolina judge can show that the state takes seriously crimes committed by officers who fire on people when such force isn’t justified.
“My situation could have set a precedent a long time ago if officers had to think twice before reaching for their firearms because they know there are consequences and repercussions when they become judge, jury and executioners right in the street,” Jones said.
Behind bars, Groubert is taking medication and seeing a psychiatrist to deal with post-traumatic stress disorder from an on-duty shooting in 2012. His supervisors said Groubert protected the public by chasing a suspect who fired on him during a traffic stop. Groubert was awarded the Highway Patrol’s Medal of Valor.
Groubert and his wife were arrested for shoplifting in October, and those charges are pending.
Jones received a $285,000 civil settlement from the state in the shooting.
A message left with Groubert’s attorney seeking comment was not immediately returned.