A South Carolina grand jury Wednesday indicted a white police officer who shot and killed an unarmed 68-year-old black motorist in his driveway after a chase last year.
Justin Craven, 25, an officer with the North Augusta Department of Public Safety, is charged with discharging a firearm into an occupied vehicle. He stands accused of killing Ernest Satterwhite Sr. in February 2014.
Authorities say Craven had tried to stop Satterwhite in Aiken County after a report of a suspected drunken driver. He chased Satterwhite about a dozen miles into his driveway in Edgefield County and almost immediately fired several shot into the driver’s door. Sheriff’s deputies had joined the pursuit before just as it ended.
Craven claims he fired in self defense after Satterwhite reached for the officer’s gun, authorities say.
South Carolina state police have refused to release dash-cam video that reportedly shows the shooting, saying it could damage Craven’s right to a fair trial.
Another Edgefield County grand jury declined to indict Craven on a charge of voluntary manslaughter in August but did indict him on one count of official misconduct in office.
Craven believes the shooting was justified and plans to go to trial, defense attorney Jack Swerling told The Associated Press. If convicted, Craven faces a maximum prison term of 10 years.
Craven was placed on administrative leave after the shooting. He now works as a building inspector for North Augusta, which sits on the banks of the Savannah River.
Satterwhite’s family reached a $1.2 million settlement with the city.
SOURCE: USA Today – Michael Winter