Levar Jones was shot by a (now) former member of the South Carolina Highway Patrol earlier this month. The disturbing video hit national media today, showing that Sean Groubert, the officer in question, wildly discharged his firearm as Jones attempted to comply with the officer's request to produce identification. Groubert had taken valuable time out of his day, during the middle of the capital city's rush hour, to write Jones a $25 ticket for a seatbelt violation.
After being suspended pending an investigation, Groubert was fired, and prosecutors pressed felony charges today.
One might be tempted to levy some praise on Richland County, and on the South Carolina Department of Public Safety, for handling the matter in a swift and egalitarian manner. These parties did what many police departments have not by firing and charging the officer in question.
But that ending just seems a little bit too perfect for South Carolina, now doesn't it? The state's been known for its criminal justice fumbles, and deeper digging shows that you can add this one to the list.
Enter Dan Johnson, the solicitor of South Carolina's fifth circuit. For the uninitiated, South Carolina has its citizens elect the top prosecutor in each part of the state, with that prosecutor hiring a team of assistants to handle most cases.
In the immediate wake of the shooting, having viewed the video tape, Johnson called the incident a "clean shot." FITSNews and the DailyBanter have both reported that Johnson told the chief of the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED) that the use of force was warranted.
Dan Johnson has been accused of sexually harassing "multiple women" in his own office. He's been accused of using a firearm to threaten the life of an FBI agent. He's also alleged to have had an affair, then used his position to make difficult the life of the man married to his mistress.
Johnson's questionable background not withstanding, his past employment sheds some light on why he might claim that this shooting was "clean," and it also suggests that he may be unfit to prosecute this particular case.
According to his bio:
He served as Chief Deputy and Legal Counsel for the Richland County Sheriff's Department, where he worked for eight years. While there he assisted the Sheriff in directing the county's law enforcement programs and performing various legal and administrative duties to ensure the strict enforcement of state and local laws relating to the public's safety and welfare.Johnson is an eight-year veteran of the Richland Police Department, and while prosecution personnel and local police often have a cushy relationship, that past, combined with his statements on this case, call into question his ability to oversee this particular case.
Rogue cops and lone actors are scary, especially if you're a black man in America. Johnson, who himself is black, presents perhaps an even greater problem. When the chief executor of the law in one of South Carolina's largest counties provides his personal stamp of approval to an incident so clearly unlawful, what does that suggest about the system?
After reviewing a report from SLED, and under tremendous pressure from local and national forces, Johnson's office did press charges against Lance Corporal Groubert.
But Johnson, and potentially his office, should recuse themselves from this case. His judgment has been compromised, and his credibility to prosecute this crime has been undermined by his public statement on the lawfulness of the act.
And for the love of God, fine people of Richland County - it's time to vote out the alleged sexual harasser who believes that the officers patrolling the streets of your country should have open season on young black men. It's far past time to eradicate this disease.