A former South Carolina police officer pleaded guilty Monday to official misconduct in office for shooting to death an unarmed 68-year-old drunk man after a pursuit.
Justin Craven, who was a 25-year-old North Augusta police officer when he shot and killed Ernest Satterwhite, was sentenced to 80 hours of community service.
Judge Frank Addy also sentenced him to three years of probation.
A dash cam video, which captured the shooting, was released after Craven agreed to the plea deal that reduced his charges from felony manslaughter to the misdemeanor, according to the Augusta Chronicle.
The incident took place in February 2014 when police attempted to pull over Satterwhite for driving erratically in and out of lanes. Satterwhite refused to stop, leading cops on a wild chase, hitting two cars in the process.
When Satterwhite finally stopped his vehicle in his driveway, Craven stepped out of his patrol car and reached into Satterwhite’s vehicle, attempting to grasp him.
He then stepped back and fired five times, striking him twice, later claiming he was in fear for his life.
A toxicology report indicated that Satterwhite had a blood alcohol level of .159, which is more than twice the legal limit.
Craven’s attorney, Jack Swerling said: “[Craven] feared for his life and shot Satterwhite in self-defense. Craven didn’t know whether Satterwhite was armed or if he could have jumped out of the vehicle.”
A search concluded that Satterwhite never had a weapon in the vehicle.
Craven has since resigned from the police force. Craven was initially charged with voluntary manslaughter, but a grand jury refused to indict him.
However, prosecutors refiled the felony charge, which could have landed him in prison for ten years, but that was then dropped in Monday’s plea deal.
The State Law Enforcement Division refused to release the dash cam video until after the case was closed, even though the agency was sued by a local newspaper and the Associated Press.
And even then, the video contained no audio without any explanation why. As we’ve written in the past, SLED is known for making illegitimate excuses for not releasing police video.