Traffic stop for seat belt violation leads to trooper-involved s - | WBTV Charlotte

Traffic stop for seat belt violation leads to trooper-involved shooting

Troopers on the scene of a trooper-involved shooting. (Source: Chad Mills) Troopers on the scene of a trooper-involved shooting. (Source: Chad Mills)

The South Carolina Department of Public Safety has released new information in the investigation into a shooting involving a Highway Patrol officer.

DPS says L/Cpl. S.M. Groubert attempted to pull a driver over for a seat belt violation at Broad River and Whiteford Roads at about 5 p.m. Thursday. Investigators identified the driver as 35-year-old Levar Edward Jones of Columbia.

During the course of the traffic stop in the parking lot of the Circle K store, investigators say Groubert fired his weapon and shot Jones.

Jones was taken to an area hospital.

Groubert has been placed on administrative duty, which is standard protocol anytime an officer is involved in a shooting.

"This incident is still very fresh, and we know the public and community have many questions at this time," South Carolina Department of Public Safety Director Leroy Smith said in a statement. "We want to be fully transparent, and I can assure the community that we are assisting in every way to ensure a full and thorough investigation. As SLED conducts the investigation, we ask the community to be patient with us until further information can be released."

"There was a lot of things going through my mind," said Taj Henderson. "I just want to know what happened. You know, first and foremost, I just want to know what happened, why it happened, and, you know, why it had to happen to him."

When Henderson saw the truck behind crime scene tape, he knew his friend was the man who was shot.

"He was a cool, calm, collected guy," Henderson said. "I mean, he had a good demeanor and a good spirit about himself. He's a college graduate. He's an assistant manager at Subway."

As agents from the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division photographed the scene, towed the trooper's squad car, and combed over the evidence, many like Henderson looked on.

"A trooper conducted a traffic stop for a traffic violation," said Lt. Kelley Hughes with the South Carolina Highway Patrol. "During that traffic stop, an incident occurred in which the trooper discharged his firearm. At this time, the scene's been turned over to SLED, and they're investigating the shooting."

Hughes said Groubert was uninjured. He has been with the Highway Patrol since 2005. He was previously involved in a 2012 shooting in Five Points where Scott Parker Hanson was shot by officers after he fired at them. Hanson was convicted in 2013 of attempted murder.

SLED tells WIS it sent a number of agents to the crime scene to investigate what led to the shooting which is protocol after an officer-involved shooting.

"Any further information will need to come from SLED, as they are now the investigating agency," Hughes said. 

A background check indicates Lavar Jones was charged in Richland County in 2011 for misdemeanor marijuana possession. He was also charged in 2012 by the Eutawville Police Department for speeding and driving under suspension.

Right now, authorities haven't said if video captured the incident, and whether or not Jones was armed with a weapon.

"I rode with him plenty of times, and he has no weapons in that car at all," Henderson said. "I know that for a fact."

This is the 32nd officer-involved shooting in the state this year, Thom Berry with the State Law Enforcement Division said.

Once the investigation is completed, SLED will present its findings to the solicitor's office.

The DPS Office of Professional Responsibility will be conducting an internal investigation once the SLED investigation is closed, Smith said.

Copyright 2014 WIS. All rights reserved.

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