South Carolina native Ernest Satterwhite, 68, was a former mechanic who had a habit of ignoring police officers who attempting to pull him over.
The great-grandfather is now dead after a slow-speed chase which led to his driveway got him killed by a 25-year-old police officer.
Investigators determined that North Augusta Public Safety Officer Justin Craven broke the law. A prosecutor, in a rare action against a police officer, sought to charge him with voluntary manslaughter, punishable by up to 30 years in prison. But the grand jury disagreed, indicting him on a misdemeanor.
The debate over how police use force against unarmed people has become a national issue since an unarmed 18-year-old black man was shot to death in August by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, where unrest still lingers.
But most police shootings make only local headlines, and just for a day or two. The refusal of authorities to release public information about these on-duty actions by taxpayer-paid officials is a big reason why. As with many such killings, Satterwhite’s death in February remains shrouded in mystery.
So far, out of the 35 people shot by police in South Carolina this year, 16 have died. The state is on track to surpass last year’s total of 42 people shot by members of law enforcement.
In Satterwhite’s case, prosecutors won’t disclose why they sought a felony charge against Craven, who chased him for 9 miles, beyond city limits and into Edgefield County.
It is the first time an officer has been charged in a fatal shooting in almost ten years. But the grand jury opted for “misconduct in office.” That particular charge is used for sheriffs who make inmates do their personal work, or officers who ask for bribes. The single-page indictment only states that Craven used “excessive force and [failed] to follow and use proper procedures.”
Craven was placed on administrative leave with pay seven months after Satterwhite’s funeral.
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