SC man shot by trooper in viral video gets $285K settlement

Officer was charged with assault and battery of a high and aggravated nature in connection to the shooting

By Clif LeBlanc
The State

COLUMBIA, S.C. — A Columbia motorist shot late last summer by an ex-Highway Patrol trooper in a confrontation that drew national attention has received a nearly $300,000 settlement from the state.

Levar Edward Jones was paid $285,000 through the state's Insurance Reserve Fund, Scott Hawkins, spokesman for the fund said Tuesday. The settlement was reached Oct. 3, within a month of the Sept. 4 incident when trooper Sean Groubert fired shots at Jones after the officer pulled Jones over for not wearing a seat belt.

Jones, 35, is black and the unarmed motorist sustained a bullet wound to his hip. Groubert, 31, is white and was uninjured.

The shooting at a Circle K gas station northwest of Columbia occurred four weeks after a white Ferguson, Mo., policeman shot and killed an unarmed 18-year-old African-American man in the St. Louis suburb who was suspected of stealing cigars from a convenience store.

Video from the camera in Groubert's patrol cruiser captured the traffic stop of Jones and the trooper firing his Glock from a few feet away.

Four bullets flew in five seconds after Jones reached into the cab of his burgundy and white Dodge Durango to retrieve what proved to be his wallet, the 51-minute recording shows. Groubert had asked Jones for his driver's license.

"Why did you, why did you shoot me?" Jones is heard saying as he lay handcuffed on the gas station pavement moments after bullets flew. "I just grabbed my license. You said to get my license."

"Well," Groubert responded, "you dove headfirst back into your car. Then you jumped back out. I'm telling you to get outta your car." Neither trooper nor his attorney have publicly discussed the incident.

The shooting happened about 5 p.m. during afternoon rush hour along heavily traveled Broad River Road at Whitehurst Road.

Groubert was fired by the Highway Patrol shortly afterward for misreading that Jones was a threat, using too much force for too long and violating several patrol agency policies, according to the S.C. Department of Public Safety, the patrol's parent agency.

Groubert also was charged with assault and battery of a high and aggravated nature. Second-degree assault and battery is punishable by up to three years in prison and a fine of up to $2,500. When a deadly weapon is used, the law requires the sentenced to be at least three months to a year and/or a fine of $200.

First-degree assault and battery is a felony that carries up to 20 years if the attack causes great bodily injury or death.

The case has not been set for a trial, a spokeswoman for the 5th Circuit prosecutor's office said.

Groubert had been involved in another shooting incident about two years before the encounter with Jones. In August 2012, he was part of a car chase along two interstates and into Five Points. In that confrontation, the driver fired at Groubert and another trooper in the parking lot of the Wells Fargo Bank before the bank had opened for the day.

The gunman, Scott Parker Hanson, was wounded and in 2013 convicted of attempted murder.

Copyright 2015 The State 

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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