A Columbia man who was shot by a Highway Patrol trooper during a 2014 traffic stop is circulating a petition calling for South Carolina judicial officials to speed up sentencing for that trooper.
Levar Jones told reporters Monday he has not heard anything from a state circuit judge or the 5th Circuit Solicitors Office about when former trooper Sean Groubert will be sentenced. Groubert pleaded guilty in March to a charge of assault and battery of a high and aggravated nature. Now, Jones and his attorney are pushing a petition that calls on Solicitor Dan Johnson to seek the maximum 20 year sentence for the former trooper.
Groubert was fired not long after the September 2014 shooting, once Department of Public Safety officials saw the dashcam video taken inside the trooper’s cruiser. The video (which can be seen here — warning: GRAPHIC) shows Groubert approach Jones in a gas station parking lot and ask to see his license. Then, as Jones turns to reach into his car, Groubert appears to panic and suddenly yells “Get out of the car!” before firing four shots. One of the bullets struck Jones’ hip, according to reports at the time. Groubert said he had stopped Jones for a seatbelt violation.
Jones said he hopes South Carolina will do the right thing for police misconduct.”We’re trying to be ahead of the curve,” he told reporters. “We want to be the ones making the decisions, making the moves, setting the precedents for the rest of the country.”
The 2014 shooting came amid racially-tinged tensions over the treatment of minorities by white law enforcement officers. The incident occurred less than a month after a police officer shot and killed Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri and seven months before then-North Charleston officer Michael Slager shot and killed a fleeing Walter Scott following another traffic stop. Slager is currently free on bond as he awaits his trial.
No sentencing date has been announced. Jones said he has tried reaching out to the solicitor’s office once per week for several months, but has not gotten an answer.
As for Jones, he says he still has a nervousness and suspicion around officers since the shooting two years ago. He told reporters he had recently gotten out of an elevator after an armed officer also entered it. “I didn’t feel comfortable,” he said. “They have a gun on them still. If something happens to me, it’s going to be, ‘He reached. He did this. He… went aggressively. So I didn’t feel comfortable. I removed myself from the elevator and let them go up.”
It is unusual for an individual who pleads guilty to get the maximum sentence for a first offense, which would have been the case for Groubert. However, the former trooper and his wife were also charged with shoplifting from a Columbia-area Walmart last year. Those charges are still pending.