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25 Sep, 2014 16:20

South Carolina trooper faces 20 years in prison after shooting man during traffic stop (VIDEO)

South Carolina trooper faces 20 years in prison after shooting man during traffic stop (VIDEO)

Five days after being fired from the South Carolina Highway Patrol for shooting an unarmed man several times during a traffic stop, former cop Sean Groubert was arrested in the city of Columbia on Wednesday and charged with a felony.

Groubert, 31, now faces two decades in prison if he’s found guilty of assault and battery of a high and aggravated nature; he was released from custody late Wednesday on $75,000 bond, but not before the public was provided with dash-cam footage from the Sept. 4 shooting that sent Levar Jones to an area hospital.

The three-minute-long video recording — first played at Wednesday’s bond hearing and then published online by The State newspaper — shows Groubert trailing a pickup truck earlier this month in his cruiser for a few seconds before he initiates a traffic stop over a supposed seat belt violation and pulls up behind the vehicle at a local gas station.

Jones, the driver, is shown exiting the vehicle near a gas pump and being asked by Groubert for his license, Jones reaches into his back pocket briefly and then turns back towards the cab of the pickup where he says he was looking for his ID.

Groubert fired four shots at Jones as the man attempted to produce his identification as requested, and one of the bullets struck the man’s hip.

"What did I do, sir?" Jones is heard asking repeatedly. "I don't know what happened," Jones says in the video. "I just grabbed my license."

"Sir, why was I shot? All I did was reach for my license. I'm coming from work."

The South Carolina Department of Public Safety announced on Sept. 19 that “Groubert’s actions rose to such an extent that his employment with us must be terminated.” Up until then, Groubert’s rank with the state troopers was that of lance corporal.

“While Mr. Groubert was within the law to stop Mr. Jones for a safety belt violation, the force administered in this case was unwarranted, inconsistent with how our troopers are trained and clearly in violation of Department policies,” SCDPS Director Leroy Smith said in a statement then. Neither charges nor the release of the video were announced until Wednesday this week, however — 20 days after the shooting.

According to WIS news, Jones has only released one statement publically since being shot.

“I know that the community has questions and people are interested in what and why this happened to me. I think God everyday that I am here with a story to tell and hope my situation can make a chance. My recovery is coming [along] well, and hope this situation can make a change, not just here at home in South Carolina, but coast-to-coast,” Jones told the network earlier this month.

This month’s incident out of Columbia is only among the latest in a series of events in which a white police officer has opened fire at an unarmed black suspects, and luckily fell short of ending in total tragedy, unlike other recent ordeals. The August 9 fatal shooting of an unarmed black teenager in Ferguson, Missouri by a white police officer continues to fuel discussions concerning race relations in the US and the relationship between law enforcement officers and minorities, among other issues, and is currently the subject of a federal investigation being undertaken by the Department of Justice.

According to WIS, Groubert is due back in court on October 24.