SC officer indicted on felony charge in fatal shooting

AP News
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Posted: May 27, 2015 4:50 PM

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — A South Carolina police officer was indicted Wednesday on a lesser felony charge nine months after a grand jury refused to indict him for voluntary manslaughter in the fatal shooting of a 68-year-old man following a long car chase.

The Edgefield County grand jury handed up an indictment against Justin Craven on a charge of discharging a firearm into an occupied vehicle, which carries up to 10 years in prison.

Craven, an officer in North Augusta, is the third police officer in South Carolina since September to be indicted on a felony charge for shooting an unarmed motorist.

The new charge does not require mandatory jail time. The voluntary manslaughter charge carries a mandatory sentence of from two to 30 years. Officers convicted of any felony can no longer serve on the force. Craven was placed on customary administrative leave while the case was under review, but works in North Augusta now as a building inspector.

Satterwhite's family sued the city over his death and reached a $1.2 million settlement.

Craven tried to pull over Satterwhite for drunken driving in February, but Satterwhite drove away. He led Craven on a chase that went on for about a dozen miles, often over the speed limit, and that brought the two out of North Augusta and Aiken County and into Edgefield County, where Satterwhite lived, authorities said.

Satterwhite stopped his car in his driveway and Craven ran from his cruiser, firing several shots through the closed driver's side door, according to a report from the Edgefield County Sheriff's Office.

Craven told investigators that Satterwhite tried to grab the officer's gun and he feared for his life. His lawyer, Jack Swerling, said Craven plans to go to trial.

"It will all get aired out in court," defense attorney Jack Swerling said by phone after the indictment.

The shooting was captured by Craven's dashboard camera, but the State Law Enforcement Division, known as SLED, has refused to release the footage. Swerling is asking a judge to bar the release until Craven's trial, even though SLED has released dashcam video before trial in other cases. The Aiken Standard newspaper and WRDW-TV are fighting Swerling's request.

The lawyer for Satterwhite's family was allowed to see the dashcam video, but had to sign an agreement that he would be held in contempt of court if he released it to the news media.

In August, prosecutors asked a grand jury to indict Craven on the voluntary manslaughter charge, but the jurors refused, instead indicting him on a misdemeanor charge of misconduct in office.

Craven was scheduled to have a first appearance in court Thursday, but Swerling said he will waive that hearing.

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