S.C. Officer Justin Craven Faces Felony Charge For Fatally Shooting Unarmed Black Man In His Driveway

04/09/2015 02:20 pm ET | Updated Apr 09, 2015
Edgefield County Sheriff

A white officer in South Carolina who fatally shot an unarmed black man in his driveway in 2014 was arrested on a felony weapons charge Tuesday -- the same day that officer Michael Slager was charged with murder over the shooting of Walter Scott.

Justin Gregory Craven, 25, was arrested on suspicion of discharging a firearm into an occupied vehicle, according to the state's Law Enforcement Division. The North Augusta public safety officer is accused of shooting and killing 68-year-old Ernest Satterwhite in his driveway on Feb. 9, 2014, during a traffic stop. Craven fired repeatedly through the driver-side door of Satterwhite's car after the victim had fully stopped in his driveway, according to the Edgefield Daily at the time.

Craven was arrested in Edgefield County the same day Slager was charged with murder after Sunday's shooting in North Charleston, about 150 miles away. The cases share several characteristics: They both started as a traffic stop, they were both caught on camera, and both responding officers alleged in followup reports that the victims grabbed for the officer's weapon.

In Satterwhite's case, Craven said the unarmed victim "grabbed my gun" before he opened fire. A lawsuit filed by Satterwhite's family -- which recently ended in a $1 million settlement -- denied that there was ever a struggle over the gun, according to The Washington Post.

Craven admitted to firing his pistol into the car. He was initially indicted by a grand jury for a charge of "misconduct in office," a misdemeanor, instead of a manslaughter charge sought by prosecutors. That case is reportedly still pending, and Craven hasn't worked in law enforcement since.

With the new charge, Craven faces up to 10 years in prison and a fine of $1,000. His attorney told the Post that he plans to plead not guilty.

The Associated Press reported that Satterwhite had an arrest record, but never for a violent offense:

Police records show Satterwhite had been arrested more than a dozen times for traffic violations, most of them for driving under suspension or under the influence. Most of the charges led to convictions. He also was charged at least three times for failing to stop as officers tried to pull him over. But his record shows no evidence he ever physically fought with an officer.

Edgefield County deputies who joined in the chase reported that Craven ran up to Satterwhite's parked car and fired several shots into the driver's side door, telling the other officers that Satterwhite tried to grab his gun. The other officers couldn't get Satterwhite's door open, so they broke the passenger side window, unlocked that door and dragged him out.

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