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New video released in “Dash-cam Shooting”

New video released in “Dash-cam Shooting”

Officer perceives suspect’s compliance as lunge for weapon.

A South Carolina prosecutor’s office has released dash-camera video of the September 4 shooting by Police Officer Sean Groubert of Levar Edward in a gas station parking lot. It appears that Edward was in good faith simply complying with Groubert’s demands for identification, but in a manner that led Groubert to believe that Edward was lunging for a weapon.

The good news: the shooting victim, Edward, was not killed. The bad news: just about everything else.

Here’s the dash-camera footage:

Here’s a brief textual description of events as I saw them, for those who may not be in a position to watch the video at the moment:

Officer Groubert had confronted Edward over a seat belt violation, engaging with Edward just as he steps from his white SUV.  Groubert asks to see Edward’s driver’s license; Edward hesitates a moment, then turns with some speed and leans back into the passenger compartment of the SUV.

My guess is that Groubert had this “dives back into the vehicle” movement mentally pre-programmed as an imminent deadly force threat.  If this is the case, only he would be able to explain why; perhaps it was the result of his training or on-the-job experiences, or knowledge of other officers encountering a similar action and suddenly finding themselves facing an armed and dangerous suspect.

In any case, at about 0:44 Groubert immediately presents the gun and begins aggressively ordering Edward to “get out of the car!”  Edward turns back to Groubert to comply–and that’s exactly the movement Groubert must have imagined Edward would make if he was turning to engage the officer with a weapon.

Groubet fires two rapid shots, even as he moves laterally relative to Edward, while Edward is standing in the door of the SUV. Edward grabs his groin, likely indicating a low hit. (Low hits are very common when shooting under stress, as the shooter tends to overpower the trigger and drive down the muzzle of the gun.)  In this case it likely saved Edward’s life and Groubert from a murder charge.

Edward stumbles away from the SUV, turning to face Groubert, his hands still at his groin.  Groubert fires a third shot and Edward’s arms fly straight up into a surrender position, even as a fourth shot breaks. At this point Edward appears to fall down in a sitting position, and Groubert moves in and begins typical “secure the suspect” actions (“hands behind your back,” etc.)

Edward is alert and cogent, and immediately starts asking why Groubert shot him, saying that he was only trying to comply with Groubert’s orders.  Within seconds Groubert’s tone becomes conciliatory in tone (too late, of course), and he tells Edward he’s called for medical care.

As an aside, at the distance separating these two men all four of Groubert’s shots fired should have–or, at least, could have–formed a group no large than a palm centered over Leval’s chest, in which case the wounds would almost certainly have been fatal.  Remember, Trayvon Martin was killed by a single 9mm round to the center-chest. Instead, we can only be certain that one of those four shots actually struck Edward, and not with the placement necessary to have a debilitating effect.

Officer Has Been Fired, Arrested, Charged with Aggravated Assault

Groubert was arrested and charged with assault and battery of a high and aggravated nature, which carries a potential 20 year sentence.  He has been fired, and is currently free on $75,000 bail.

Barney Giese, the officer’s defense attorney, will of course argue that in the totality of the circumstances Groubert reasonably perceived an imminent threat of death or grave bodily harm, thus justifying the shooting.

It’s important to remember that reasonable errors are allowed under the law of self-defense.  The question is whether Groubert’s conduct was that of a reasonable and prudent person under the same or similar circumstances, possessing the same or similar capabilities, training, and knowledge.

(For example, the situation would be an entirely different one if Groubert had pulled Edward over on a felony warrant stating Edward was armed and dangerous.  That is not, of course, the case here, as Edward was pulled over for a seatbelt violation.)

On the other hand, if Groubert’s training or experience reinforced in his mind that motions of the type and speed made by Edward are to be interpreted as a suspect reaching for a weapon, that would obviously contribute the the reasonableness of Groubert’s conduct.

Did Edward’s Conduct Contribute to Groubert’s Perception of Danger?

An important factor that may help defense counsel Giese spin a favorable narrative for the jury is the swiftness with which Edward turned back into his vehicle–some might say lunged back into the vehicle.  Doing so is not, of course, a crime, especially when it appears it was in direct response to Groubert’s demand for identification.  Nevertheless, it seems very much identical to the motion a dangerous suspect would make if reaching for a weapon.

Also favorable to Groubert, I think, is his demeanor immediately before and after the shooting, in which he demonstrated no unusually aggressive conduct or apparent malice.  It was, to all appearances, a routine traffic stop until Groubert perceived—reasonably or not, the jury will decide—Edward lunging back into his vehicle for a weapon.

As an aside, when I’m personally pulled over by the police—which pretty much only happens when I’m on the motorcycle, not sure why—I don’t make any movement until instructed to do so; then, I verbally state the movement I plan to make and obtain consent for that movement, and execute that movement with deliberation.

Officer: “License and registration.”

Me: “Sir, my wallet is in this tank bag. Is it OK if I retrieve it?”

Officer: “Do what you need to do.”

Me: [SLOWLY unzips tankbag, lifts flap ALL the way up so contents are fully exposed to the officer’s view, retrieves necessary documents from waterproof bag, hands to officer.]

It’s just the prudent thing to do, I think.

The Prosecution’s Burden of Persuasion, Prospects for “Compromise Verdict”

In any case, it will be under such circumstances that Groubert’s defense counsel will seek to build and sustain a reasonable doubt that Groubert was acting in self-defense.  If the prosecution cannot meet its burden of persuasion to disprove self-defense beyond a reasonable doubt, the jury will be instructed to acquit.

This case is likely to be perceived by the jury as amenable to a “compromise verdict.”  In such cases a jury may not be able to reach unanimous agreement to convict on the aggravated assault charge, but instead come to an agreement on some lesser included charge.  There’s no way to predict how amenable they might be to such an outcome, of course, without having heard the actual narratives as they’ll be made in court.

–-Andrew, @LawSelfDefense

Andrew F. Branca is an MA lawyer and the author of the seminal book “The Law of Self Defense, 2nd Edition,” available at the Law of Self Defense blog (autographed copies available) and (paperback and Kindle). He also holds Law of Self Defense Seminars around the country, and provides free online self-defense law video lectures at the Law of Self Defense Institute and podcasts through iTunes, Stitcher, and elsewhere.


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Since jurors are not lawyers, the officer is screwed. You can make the legal arguments that it’s reasonable error, etc, but the jury is going to see a man complying with officer orders in a straight-forward manner and getting shot for it.

This speaks to the aggressive mindset of police when they talk about the risk of a normal traffic stop turning into a violent confrontation. But that risk:

1) Is incredibly small
2) Is part of the officer’s job
3) Is under a circumstance where the officer chooses to engage
4) Where the officer maintains near-total control (short of violent reprisal) of the situation.

So to go from “License” to “Open fire” is unconscionable. Move too slow, and the officer may get angry and assault you. Comply too readily, and the officer may get panicked and shoot you.

Either way, it’s an open question as to whether there are criminal repercussions for the officer? For the first type, *maybe* the department gets sued. Officer might get a vacation. For the second, getting fired is a rarity.

    ThomasD in reply to JWB. | September 25, 2014 at 4:20 pm

    The officer is screwed be cause he screwed up. Royally.

    He’s damn lucky his horrible mistakes did not result in the death of an innocent man.

      JackRussellTerrierist in reply to ThomasD. | September 25, 2014 at 5:28 pm

      First, I’d say that based on what we know so far the cop is clearly in the wrong. Not having heard his side, it’s hard to know if an actual criminal charge is appropriate. Also, he may not be suited well for the job if he’s as scared as it appears he was.

      OTOH, when somebody is going into a retail establishment, especially a convenience store, it’s probable they intend to buy something. Since the victim was already out of his vehicle, one might rationally assume he had his wallet on him, which is where most people carry their license, because it’s often called for when using a credit card or writing a check. That would perhaps lead to a question in the officer’s mind as to what the guy turned around back into the vehicle to get.

      Expecting people to have their wallets on their person when shopping is the reasonable expectation criminals have in the large number of muggings that occur in shopping mall parking lots.

      Just sayin’.

        I’ve worked in a convenience store, the number of people that leave their Drivers license in the car when buying beer or cigarettes would surprise you. Some even drive to the store without it.

        I don’t usually carry my license into a convenience store. I usually just take $3 or $4 dollars for what I plan to spend, or a twenty and my car keys.

        My license isn’t in my wallet, because I switch purses when I walk my dog, and my wallet is too big for my dog-walking purse. I keep my license in this red plastic sleeve the insurance agent gave me for my auto insurance card and move it to which ever purse I’m carrying.

        I would definitely have to get back in my car to get it.

          JackRussellTerrierist in reply to Karen Sacandy. | September 26, 2014 at 7:22 pm

          Getting the cash out sounds like a lot more trouble than just grabbing your wallet. I usually just take the whole shooting match in, but for a convenience store I might just grab my wallet, which has my license in it. Why do you need any of it just to walk the dog, if I may ask?

        he may not be suited well for the job if he’s as scared as it appears he was.

        I think this may be a training issue as much as a personal issue. The drumbeat of “you want to go home at night,” breeds this sort of cowardly, hysterical response. When it comes down to it, tactical fatalities among cops are quite rare. I was having a discussion about crazy drivers with a cop once, and commented that “Sometimes the most dangerous thing you can do is to drive to the gunfight.” He gave me an odd look, and then agreed with me.

        The training of cops has to have more stress on citizen interactions, and on de-tuning the storm trooper mentality.

    The decision to charge this as a criminal case is what surprises me, but not every DA is a friend of police officers either. I do think this officer overreacted, but both sides were acting in good faith. I can’t see how that amounts to criminal liability… though I would’ve still considered firing the man for having an itchy trigger finger. OTOH, for reasons I completely understand, officer safety and survival is constantly stressed in training…

    Gremlin1974 in reply to JWB. | September 25, 2014 at 7:20 pm

    Actually from what I have seen and read, juries tend to favor officers and give them a fair amount of leeway.

    Tex Detroit in reply to JWB. | September 26, 2014 at 10:00 am

    Yeah, such a shame that the stupid jury won’t see that a policeman shooting a compliant suspect as justified.

Whenever I get stopped by the police I try to lighten the moment with little comments like, “you’re not gonna look in the trunk, are ya?” or “didn’t I see you get your ass kicked on COPS last night?” The officer always says, “good one, sir!”, we talk about football and shit, then he tells me, “tell ya what, you’re white, so you’re free to go, sir. No ticket today!” Good times, good times.

As a side note;

“Officer Groubert had confronted Edward over a seat belt violation”

We should be talking about why the hell we have things like seat belt laws.

This guy was shot because he took a slightly higher risk of injury while driving then if he had worn his seat belt. Think about that for a moment.

    tom swift in reply to 18-1. | September 25, 2014 at 4:17 pm

    What risk of injury would that be?

    The victim wasn’t wearing a seat belt when he got out of his car. Were he wearing it, he’d have had a pretty hard time getting out of the car at all. From that we can conclude … what, exactly?

    Karen Sacandy in reply to 18-1. | September 26, 2014 at 8:10 am

    I utterly and totally agree. No one should have his life put in danger over the nanny state.

    If the officer is so frightened, he shouldn’t try to enforce laws he doesn’t think are worth his own life.

    I’ve had guns drawn on me for LESS by police. For simply wanting to go get bagels on a Sunday morning.

    Our Georgia supreme court has ruled that trying to avoid a roadblock is indication of guilt of something, so the police can chase you. They had a roadblock down the street from my house Sunday morning. They didn’t check to see what cars we residents drove. When I pulled out of my driveway, even though they couldn’t have seen my pull in because I was home all night, two cops got in their cars, chased me down and drew guns on me. Their excuse? “Last week we had to chase a guy through the woods.”

    Utterly appalling. Utterly disgraceful. I could have died from multiple gunshot wounds to my head.

      JackRussellTerrierist in reply to Karen Sacandy. | September 26, 2014 at 6:57 pm

      I don’t understand. Did you leave your driveway, see the roadblock, then turn around….or what?

      If a road is blocked, OF COURSE people are going to turn around.

      Why was there a roadblock there?

MouseTheLuckyDog | September 25, 2014 at 2:25 pm

My first reaction to what I hear people say:
many people are on social media saying the fourth shot happened when he had his hands up. Not true, his hands were covering his crotch at the time.

THis is of signific ance for the Mike Brown shooting.

Your description of how you retrieve your wallet from your tank bag reminds me of what I demonstrated to my 16 year old son.

With my much-better-half, my 16 year old and his 9 year old brother, we encountered a DUI stop. Officers approached from both the drivers and passengers side, with motorists’ vehicle in front and behind us. Clearly, there was no reasonable way to consider I would be a ‘threat’, but I, too, announced my moves with my hands on the steering wheel:

“Officer, I am sitting on my wallet, may I reach for it?”
“The registration and insurance cards are in the glove box, may I reach for it?’

My son said he understood and would remember what to do should he be asked for ID; I only hope he does!

    filiusdextris in reply to cindelicato. | September 25, 2014 at 3:51 pm

    If this wallet retrieval method is proper procedure, and I agree that it is, then honestly it should be the cops job to start such a dialog as they are the ones who desire it and would be more familiar with it. Something like: “where is your identification?” “do you mind my retrieving it for you?” “please retrieve it with your right hand” when you unzip your bag, do so slowly” etc, etc. Just asking for identification and not accounting for potentially reasonable sudden movements is asking for trouble. Burden on police.

      This is the cops fault for pulling over a person who was not in his car for a seatbelt violation (??!!). I realize it’s different for women, but I leave my wallet in the car all the time when I pump gas and probably would have done the same thing. If the cop has rules for how he was supposed to get his id, he should have spelled them out.

MouseTheLuckyDog | September 25, 2014 at 2:45 pm

When I first saw the video, I only knew that it was an “incident”. When the guy turned back to the camera, I was convinced that he had a gun in his hand.

The way to deal with an encounter with police:

Before this is over, I bet you are going to see similar dashcam vids of cops in similar situations where the guy does come up with a gun.

I can’t see how a jury convicts since it seems to me a reasonable person would act in the same way.

This is in part because the guy is a cop. If this were some situation where two people were talking, then the guy was reaching for a map or a phone or something, I would not be scared that he was going to bring up a gun. But because the guy is a cop, the chance that he will bring up a gun is increased.

Nothing at all to do with increased level of militaristic indoctrination in police forces!?

Police are afraid because they are conditioned to be afraid.

There is no reasonable excuse for this situation.

Fear leads to more fear and law abiding citizens are forced to behave in an unreasonable manner thanks to policy and training in police forces.

    MouseTheLuckyDog in reply to OMMAG-2013. | September 25, 2014 at 2:59 pm

    Police are afraid because they have reason to be afraid. Like I said just wait for the videos where some other guy comes up with a gun.

    Ragspierre in reply to OMMAG-2013. | September 25, 2014 at 3:42 pm


    Nonsense. I’ve told the story before about my buddy in Warrant Officer Flight School back in the early 70s who was a Reservist and a CHP officer.

    He learned I was born in Hollywood, and we talked about California. He told me all traffic stops recently were “open holster” stops…meaning with guns drawn. The reason was that several LEOs had been killed during routine traffic stops.

    LEOs are…humanly…afraid. Learn it, live it, love it. Conduct yourself accordingly.

    The whole “militarized” trope is mostly BS. Cops in the 50s would open up on a fleeing suspect with no hesitation. LEOs of today TEND to be much more professional than their forerunners were.

      gregjgrose in reply to Ragspierre. | September 25, 2014 at 4:44 pm


      >> … The whole “militarized” trope is mostly BS…

      I note your qualifier, but SWAT teams attached to EPA, Dept. of Ed, Cosmetologist’s Licensing Bureau, well… And, granted, these are at best regulatory agencies, not strictly LE, but… I think a fair argument could be made that ordinary cops, enforcing seat belt laws, are also rather regulatory, but I alliterate always

        Ragspierre in reply to gregjgrose. | September 25, 2014 at 5:23 pm

        To my compartmentalized mind…different things.

        The SWAT-a-fying of every alphabet-soup agency of the bureaucratic state is not the same as “militarizing” the police. It is a VERY bad thing, IMNHO.

        Now, that all said, do I think SWAT teams should be used as a matter of course for serving ordinary warrants? No. I sure don’t. Any time Andy of Mayberry can serve a warrant, he/she should. Conversely, if Andy could get his/her butt shot up, use resources appropriately.

        But I also don’t soil myself over the fact that cops are getting MRAPs. They’ve had armored vehicles since at least Prohibition. I see Brinks trucks almost every day. My area police and FD also have boats.

        Do SWAT teams wear camo? Yep, and that makes perfect sense in an area that wears a lot of urban vegetation. Should they be wearing all white? International orange?

There’s probably more of a racial component in this shooting than in the Ferguson shooting or any other shooting where they accuse racial motives.

This cop should be convicted, IMO.

Doesn’t a reasonable fear of death or seriously bodily harm require the defender to see the instrument of such harm? Is it sufficient to surmise the presence of the instrument?

Are our lives so fragile and precious that it takes only the most elementary surprise to trigger a deadly response? You can’t treat everyone like a PCP-crazed junkie looking to score. I think we all need to back it down and assume that everyone around us is armed, and decide that that’s okay, until it isn’t.

    MouseTheLuckyDog in reply to Immolate. | September 25, 2014 at 4:00 pm

    The gun you see is not the gun that kills you. THe bullet you hear is not the bullet that kills you.

    Gremlin1974 in reply to Immolate. | September 25, 2014 at 7:31 pm

    In answer do to your question; NOPE!

    You don’t actually have to see the gun, because if you see the gun then it is usually firing at you.

    Here is a great example, one of the first CCW shootings in my state was when a young man opened the passenger side door of a mans car and attempted to carjack him. The driver had his gun in a seat belt holster, the carjacker screamed for him to get out of the car and reached for the back of his waistband like he had a gun. The driver pulled the snub nose 44 mag from the holster and shot the carjacker 2 times. The carjacker was dead before he hit the ground as a matter of fact his hand was still stuck in his back waist band. No weapon was found. The driver was not charged nor arrested and his actions were completely reasonable.

      ConradCA in reply to Gremlin1974. | September 25, 2014 at 9:52 pm

      The difference is that the robber made an implied threat to the persons life before he was shot. The driver was just following instructions and the officer should have drawn his gun and been ready to shoot if there was a weapon. The officer should have repositioned himself if there was time so the driver would have had to locate him before taking a shot.

Good thing this was on video, because nobody would believe it otherwise. Even better, the fact that this video wasn’t “lost” by someone back at the station may be significant.

I see absolutely no wriggle room for the shooter here. Even that seatbelt violation claim will just make a jury feel insulted. The victim’s not even in his car, and he’s expected to be wearing a seatbelt?

And of course the creeps who are always whining about “profiling” will have a grand old time with this; and this time they’ll be right.

    JackRussellTerrierist in reply to tom swift. | September 25, 2014 at 5:38 pm

    Most likely the cops saw the shooting victim sans seatbelt prior to the victim exiting the vehicle.

    The “profiling” aspect you speak of as being true may be incorrect. It could also be a case of a “ticket anything you see, no matter how minor, to raise revenue” department policy.

    You don’t know what’s in the officer’s heart.

      My hearing isn’t very good, but I thought I heard the victim say he had undone his seatbelt as he pulled into the parking lot.

      Which I do ALL the time. Saves time. Unless a cop with a gun kills you.

      Neighbor is a cop and works with the school DARE program. Coincidentally, most seat belt violations are written near the school. Officer(s) stand near the entrances to the student parking lot where they can observe seatbelts. What they look for is whether or not the strap is over the shoulder.

      That to me is questionable as cause to stop/cite someone; lap-only seat belts are still in use and sold for retrofit. There are those of us for whom shoulder belts don’t work, yet still wear a lap belt.

      With the size/height of the victims vehicle and (lower) perspective of the cop in (presumably) a sedan, the ONLY thing the cop could see is whether the belt was over the suspects left shoulder.

      IMO, cops should NOT be able to stop someone for a seatbelt violation, since it is virtually impossible to see whether a driver/passenger has a seatbelt buckled across their lap. Seatbelt infractions should be issued via secondary inspection after a traffic stop for moving violation, tags, lights/equipment, etc.

      For example, in the early 80s (IIRC), WA state approved a ‘garabage bag’ law. Soon after, driving home from work one day several cops at a checkpoint were stopping vehicles to inspect for garbage bags and citing noncompliance. Not a month later, the state was sued over reasonable suspicion/search provisions and the law was amended as to exclude itself from being the primary cause of a traffic stop. Cop can not see into a moving vehicle from their vantage point, therefore the stops were a fishing expedition.

      I do not understand why similar interpretation is not applied to seat belt laws.

I am pleased to hear they fired that guy. That guy was pulled over for a SEATBELT violation in a parking lot!!! I am so glad he is ok.

As for whether he should be convicted, I am one of those people who might favor some sort of middle ground punishment, solely because the man isn’t dead and the officer was fired. He is unlikely to be a danger in his regular life, I’m guessing (I could be proven otherwise). He made a very bad mistake, which could have had bad consequences.

I actually did not think the man moved to his car particularly hurriedly. He complied with the officers request. I actually loved that he kept repeating his points to the officer (I was pulling into the parking lot, you shot me, you asked me to get my license!). The officer was too jumpy, and considering what a bad shot he was he could have hit any number of random people walking around in the background. Of course, if he’d been a good shot this innocent man would have been dead.

    tom swift in reply to Lea. | September 25, 2014 at 4:47 pm

    I am so glad he is ok.

    Do we know that?

    So far as we’ve heard here, he’s not dead.

    But there can be a lot of ugly territory between “not dead” and “ok”.

Tom the officer probably saw the guy driving without his seatbelt and then stopped him. The video starts after he is stopped.

The officer should have told the guy to get back into his car before he gave him any other instructions.

    tom swift in reply to ConradCA. | September 25, 2014 at 4:35 pm

    A more complete video might show something of the sort. The released fragment doesn’t show a police pursuit for a seatbelt infraction, all it shows – before the exciting stuff starts – is a police car driving (or even meandering) around a parking lot, and a civilian who shouldn’t have been wearing a seatbelt at the time he was caught on camera.

    The seatbelt is not visible from the vantage point of another driver when worn by someone in my car. (It’s an oldie, but hardly a rare car even today.) I have never been harassed about it, not even here in the People’s Democratic Republic of Massachusetts, and of course have never been shot for it. But I do empathasize with this unfortunate target perhaps more than some.

      tom swift in reply to tom swift. | September 25, 2014 at 4:42 pm

      empathasize? try empathize

        ‘cops are trained to spot seatbelt violations even while driving’ according to the local ad campaign. Ridiculous, but he probably followed the guy into the parking lot and then turned on the lights (?or maybe he didn’t do that, just followed him in and pulled him over while he was walking. That was just a really weird thing to do). I’ve had cops do that sort of thing before with me, wait until you’ve done something like pull into a parking lot to turn on lights.

          Gremlin1974 in reply to Lea. | September 25, 2014 at 7:56 pm

          Yea the ad campaign is crap. That is why most places have seat belt laws but they can’t be used as the primary reason to stop people.

          JackRussellTerrierist in reply to Lea. | September 25, 2014 at 11:51 pm

          Grem, that can be the primary reason for stopping someone in some states, such as CA.

Wow. That charge seems rather inadequate. Particularly considering the delay between the first and second volley.

This was an unlawful stop to begin with, there is no law for not wearing a seat belt on private property. The driver never left the property and thus was not required to wear a seat belt! I also agree that the punishment should be middle of the road but the unlawful stop really bothers me. This is what officers say and do after the fact to “CYA”! It’s no different than a “test-a-lie”, a very common phase among law enforcement. Good cops don’t do either!

Now the very stark reality! Being a police officer is a very dangerous and risky job. In my opinion you will see a steep decline in applications to become police officers across the country because of the increased tensions and increased prosecutions of police officers. Why would anyone become a cop knowing that they not only have a target on their back from criminals but the prosecution too! Another sad day for America!

    JackRussellTerrierist in reply to Merlin01. | September 25, 2014 at 5:42 pm

    It has to be your own private property, not a publicly accessible place.

      I believe you’re wrong. IN Georgia, I don’t believe we prosecute for traffic “violations” on private property. They’re precatory.

      Never seen it done. Maybe once for a handicap parking spot. Maybe.

If the officer noticed the lack of a seatbelt out on the road and lit him up to pull over, what if the driver drove on a bit before complying? Not saying that happened, but it’s a good way to get a cop’s antennae up and twitching because it’s often because the driver is trying to hide something before he stops or deciding whether to stop at all.

On the other hand, nobody’s a bigger LEO supporter than I am (father, sister, nephews cops) and if all the pertinent info is in the dashboard video, this cop seems a little too jumpy for patrol work. I mean, people are stupid and come out of cars all sorts of stupid ways. I realize how dangerous police work is and I lost a cop friend back in 1997 ( ) but it can’t be acceptable police behavior to start shooting because you’ve lost sight of the hands of someone you’ve barely engaged as yet. That happens a LOT.

The victim is compliant throughout the episode, even after he’s been shot, though he’d been wise to not move so quickly back to the SUV. But the officer apparently assumed the requested ID was in his pocket, not in the SUV. Why? That contributed here, too. Was the guy fidgety? Yes, but a lot of people are fidgety – not a capital offense.

Not a cop here, but perhaps the officer should have commanded he simply freeze until the officer could get a look inside that open door? And if clear, THEN ask foir ID since it could be anywhere?

I’m afraid of second guessing here, hate that when others do it, but – assuming we have all pertinent info – I think this cop made an error or two and is in deep shit.

I think every patrol officer should be given one free accidental killing for every ten years of full time duty. I’ll take the risk. I know how to act when I’m stopped.


What I taught my kids about traffic stops:

1. Pull over asap, if safe. If he wanted you to pull over a mile down the road, he’d have hit the lights later.

2. Turn the car off, lower your window, and put your hands at ‘ten and two’ on the steering. Do not be fumbling around for forms he hasn’t asked for yet – you’ll look like you’re hiding dope or a gun from behind.

3. STFU. Politely wait for the officer to engage, answer his questions and say nothing more. No whining. No holding court. STFU and answer only what’s asked.

4. Do as directed. You’d be surprised how often it will lead to a good outcome, or best outcome depending on what you’ve done to get pulled over. But if you’ve earned a ticket or an arrest and you know it, take your lumps without complaint. Um, not literal ‘lumps’, you know whut I mean. Repeat: No WHINING.

5. In the highly unlikely event that the traffic stop starts going all Hitchcockian on you (rogue cop), remain still but make noise, attract attention, make people look – they’ll then be witnesses.

Back in March, a York County, SC deputy shot a 70 year old driver in a traffic stop on a dark highway. The driver, Bobby Canipe, got out of his truck and reached back for his walking cane. The officer thought it was a rifle and shot him. The Sheriff reviewed the dash cam and said the deputy did not violate any protocol. (Both were white) Canipe survived, the deputy was distraught after the shooting.

There was an investigation but no adverse criminal prosecution of the deputy. I believe this case is very similar to the above shooting.

Does anybody know whether or not the seatbelt law is enforceable on private property? like say, for instance, the grocery store parking lot?
I usually buckle up while I’m driving through the parking lot on my way to the entrance onto the street.

    Ragspierre in reply to HarrietHT. | September 25, 2014 at 6:00 pm

    No. Traffic laws apply to “public roads” or “thoroughfares”.

    You can’t (appropriately) be ticketed for running a stop sign in a private parking lot.

    This is why fathers since time immemorial have taught their off-spring to drive in big, empty parking lots.

    JackRussellTerrierist in reply to HarrietHT. | September 26, 2014 at 12:55 am

    Some states have adopted statutes that extend traffic laws to publicly accessible private property, such as retail store parking lots.

    If some punk goes ripping through a parking lot and a cop sees him, he’s going to get popped. Same for a drunk that staggers out of a beverage store in one of these big malls. If a cop sees him get into the car and back out of the parking spot, stick a fork in him. Same if you don’t have your headlights on or your brake lights are out, etc.. You might and probably can be stopped for a violation committed in a parking lot open to public traffic.

    Even if that’s not the case in SC, the cop most likely saw Edward at least turn into the parking lot. Convenience stores usually don’t have very big lots. Edward probably had to drive over a public sidewalk to get into the lot anyway.

      I believe the officer confused the victim with the vehicle that he was following out of the parking lot. The vehicle he was following out can be clearly seen at the stop light to the right and the victim appears to have already been parked at the store. The officer backs up to assault the victim who is already exiting his vehicle and is completely surprised by the officers aggressive action.

I hope Edwards becomes a millionaire out of this. There is no excuse for shooting the man. I understand the officer should be alerted by sudden moves, but he should be trained well enough to see the difference between a threat reaching for a weapon and nervous yet complying citizen.

Sort of related, I feel the same way when cops shoot people for not complying, then we find out the person was deaf. There is no sense in these officers not getting the proper training to identify the difference.

Reasonableness of the officer’s action based on risk of police work?
Average number of deaths over the last ten years for beaten, shot or stabbed or strangled? 57 out of approximately 885,594 (2008 data) That is a rate of 6.4 violent attack deaths per 100,000 law sworn state and federal law enforcement officers vs. 4.8 homicides for the general population (2010). Keep in mind that the first number is very small sample of 885,594 vs. a sample of over 300 million. Given the number of interactions officers have with the criminal element over that time I would call that a low number. I asked a question on a national forum today and I am curious if anyone here can answer, what is an acceptable rate of acceptable error, wrongful civilian death to make sure an officer goes home at night?

    Ragspierre in reply to Eric Friday. | September 25, 2014 at 9:53 pm

    I take it that you do not own, and would never use, a firearm or any weapon you might employ to defend yourself.

    Because there is a chance…and in some circumstances a very good chance…you would use it wrongfully, or your use would result in an innocent being killed or wounded.

    What is the acceptable annual loss of life for LEOs in reaching the goal of zero loss of innocent civilians? And are you volunteering to serve as an unarmed LEO?

Officers biggest problem is the statement from the Captain that he violated dept use of force policy.

From time to time, you’ll see a guy plunk his wallet and/or a wad of keys on his desk and leave them there. Seems odd, since he’ll forget one or both when he’s leaving. Seen it happen.
Other than that, I’ve never seen a guy who has his money/ID/and so forth in his wallet not have his wallet in his pants or his hand. But if you’re wearing shorts without pockets because you’re cool or something….
OTOH, some people say to leave your registration in the glove box.
Point is, the cop should have been prepared for the guy to do something or other. There’s no reason to presume reaching into the vehicle can’t be legitimate.
And the guy’s lying on the ground, shot, and the cop is still going on about ID.

Ask yourself this. What if this were not a law enforcement stop, but just an interaction between two citizens, one of whom was legally carrying a handgun. Say the firearm carrier just called the driver a jerk and a poor driver, or some other provocative language, or even said something non-provocative like hi! Would what we saw on camera constitute actions that put the firearm carrier into a reasonable threat of death or great bodily harm? Was the threat still there at the second shot? The third? and the fourth?

I think that someone not carrying a badge would be awaiting trial in jail, hoping to make an at least 6 figure bail amount. Particularly for that fourth shot. Clearly that shot was without merit.

    DaveGinOly in reply to Loren. | September 26, 2014 at 3:00 pm

    I would generally agree with you, but officers (wearing uniforms and being “authority figures” who may discover that you have an outstanding arrest warrant) are more likely to encounter a violent response to their approach. It is much more reasonable for an officer to anticipate a violence during a traffic stop, than for a civilian to expect violence after merely saying “Hi.” (Not justifying what the officer did, just saying that the expectations of officers and civilians in their own normal, every-day interactions with people are quite different.)

Officers are taught that their primary responsibility is to “go home safely at night to their families.” This training is getting people killed. Officers should be taught that their first responsibility is to the community they serve, not to themselves. They have a responsibility to the community to not needlessly injure or kill members of the community. If this sometimes puts them in danger of being shot and killed themselves, so be it. They are the servants and we are the masters. Their prime directive should be the same as physicians – “First, do no harm.” Their own safety should be secondary.

Injuring or killing innocent community members does not promote the safety and security of the community. When police present a threat to innocent community members, they are acting in direct contravention of the reason for their employment by the community.

WWAY-Wilmington. NC actually did a bit on this shooting. They reported that this officer was involved in a shooting in 2012 where the perp fired first. This may explain why he over-reacted.

When I searched online for “wallet mistaken for “, Google suggested “wallet mistaken for gun”. There were plenty of results from that search. Here are the first five results:

It appears that it is not so much the appearance of the wallets or other objects, as it was the officers’ expectations that the stopped person was reaching for a gun regardless of what was in the person’s hand. Confusion between the worst case of what might be happening as conjured in the imaginations of the officers and what is really happening leads to the officers shooting.

There are such things as “wallet holsters” that make your gun look just like a wallet, and when you carry your gun in your back pocket in this holster it looks just like a wallet. Google it. Depending on the type, the gun can even be fired without removing it from the wallet holster.

So a guy lunges into his car, grabs something small and black and whips around facing away from you so you can’t see his hands … and in the 0.2 seconds it takes for him to fully rotate into position for a possible shot you have to make the call that may well save your life. IMHO the cop was in a no-win situation here. I have talked to the cops in my family (all three) and they think this was a “bad shoot” but I still think it’s right on the hairy edge. They think the officer could have controlled the situation better so it didn’t devolve into this.

This cop was put in a VERY bad situation by the foolish actions of the driver. There are countless ways the driver could have retrieved that wallet without putting the cop in that unenviable position of possibly needing a split-second decision to perhaps save his own life. Foolish, foolish motorist. Wired up cop. Bad combination. Nobody wins.