An unarmed man shot by a South Carolina Highway Patrol trooper last month says he is recovering and getting support from around the country, but he wants the trooper who shot him to be prosecuted.
During an appearance on NBC’s “Today” show Friday morning, Levar Jones said it’s too painful to watch the dashboard camera video of the incident that ended with him in the hospital and the trooper suspended. The Highway Patrol later fired Trooper Sean Groubert after the Sept. 4 shooting and he now faces aggravated assault and battery charges. Department of Public Safety director Leroy Smith said the video showed the trooper had “reacted to a perceived threat where there was none.”
Jones told the Today Show that he hopes Groubert is convicted on the felony charge. “I really feel he needs to be charged with something that holds felony status,” he said. “That way he will… no longer be able to carry a gun, will no longer be able to be a police officer.”
The September 4 incident occurred at a gas station in northwest Columbia. The dashcam video shows Trooper Sean Groubert pulling up behind Jones’ SUV, just as Jones is stepping out of his car. Groubert asks the driver for his license. Jones feels his back pocket, then turns around to reach into his car. At that point Groubert yells “Get out of the car!” before immediately firing four shots, including one after Jones raised his hands into the air.
In the video, Jones goes to the ground and appeals, “I just got my license. You said get your license.” Groubert then asks Jones if he was hit and calls for an ambulance after the other man states he can’t feel his leg. “Why did you shoot me?” Jones can be heard asking. Groubert responds, “Well, you dove headfirst back into your car, then you jumped back out.”
“I’m sorry, I didn’t hear two words,” Jones answers. Later, the injured driver asks Groubert why he had been stopped. Groubert answers, “Seat belt violation,” to which Jones angrily answers, “Seat belt? I just pulled it off right there at the corner as I pulled into the gas station.”
Jones said he does not think he will ever take the time to watch the video. “It brings back a lot of memories, for one,” he said. “Second off, it’s something that I really just have no interest in watching.”
Jones says over the past several weeks he has come to realize that the incident has not only affected, but the video has moved a lot of people emotionally. He said total strangers have told him they started crying after watching the video. “This is a situation where, right now, we need to take all these feelings and put them into a bigger cause.”
He added that he would like to see dash cams more widely used by law enforcement, as well as body cameras on their person that can record similar incidents away from a police cruiser.