Ex-Trooper Sean Groubert most definitely was. On September 4, 2014 the trooper made a traffic stop at the Circle K at Whiteford Road and Broad River Road on a Dodge Durango driven by Mr. Edward Jones, Age 35 of Columbia.
Mr. Jones had already exited the Durango in the Circle K parking lot when Ex-Trooper Groubert initiated the traffic stop. Ex-Trooper Groubert asked for Mr. Jones driver’s license. Mr. Jones turned into his Durango and reached inside to get his driver’s license and at this point Ex-Trooper Groubert fired his service weapon multiple times while yelling repeatedly for Mr. Jones to “get out of your car.” Mr. Jones was unarmed and was struck during the incident. Mr. Jones was treated and released from the hospital. Ex-Trooper Groubert was not injured.
Ex-Trooper Groubert was placed on administrative duty while State Law Enforcement Division will investigate the incident, which is standard protocol.
Ex-Trooper Groubert joined the Highway Patrol in 2005 and was previously involved in a shooting in 2012 where a suspect fled from troopers.
The Department of Public Safety Director Leroy Smith issued a statement on September 4, 2014 to assure the public that he takes this matter very seriously.
On September 19, 2014, Director Smith made a decision to terminate the employment of then L/Cpl. Groubert from South Carolina Highway Patrol in light of the facts.
The following administrative review of the case from Director Smith states:
After my review of the facts surrounding this matter, I have determined that Mr. Groubert’s actions rose to such an extent that his employment with us must be terminated. The facts of this case are disturbing to me, but I believe this case was an isolated incident in which Mr. Groubert reacted to a perceived threat where there was none. The department’s Use of Force Policy makes clear that officers shall use “only the level of force necessary to accomplish lawful objectives” and that “the use of force must be discontinued when it becomes apparent to the officer that the force is no longer needed.” That protocol was not followed in this case.
Further, this incident occurred in broad daylight. Mr. Groubert had a clear and unobstructed view of Mr. Jones. While Mr. Groubert was within the law to stop Mr. Jones for a safety belt violation, the force administered in this case was unwarranted, inconsistent with how our troopers are trained, and clearly in violation of Department policies. These violations demonstrate behavior that deviates from SCDPS standards and cannot be tolerated.
The Highway Patrol professionally makes around 750,000 traffic contacts per year. Our troopers are trained to protect the public we serve, and motorists’ safety is paramount to us. Groubert’s actions in this situation were contradictory to the outstanding training our troopers receive. This case has been thoroughly investigated by the State Law Enforcement Division and has been turned over to the Fifth Circuit Solicitor’s Office for review and determination of any subsequent criminal charges. The SCDPS Office of Professional Responsibility’s internal investigation of this case continues. Additionally, the trooper’s in-car video is part of an ongoing criminal prosecution review and, therefore, will be released in coordination with Solicitor’s Office. I want to thank the community for its patience as we continue our administrative investigation into this matter.”
Sometime after Ex-Trooper Groubert’s termination he was arrested and charged, and is facing a charge of assault and battery of a high and aggravated nature. Sean Groubert, 31 was booked the afternoon of September 24, 2014 in the Richland County Detention Center and bond was set at $75,000.00.
The charges were brought by the Fifth Circuit Solicitor’s office, which reviewed the findings of an investigation. A warrant states that audio and visual recordings, as well as, written statements, indicate the shooting was without justification.
National Investigative Report will continue to follow this story and bring you updates as they become available.