Civil Rights

FBI Concludes Civil Rights Investigation Against North Augusta Police Officer

021014_3It has taken nearly two years for the FBI to conclude the civil rights investigation they launched in an attempt to understand what caused a public safety officer to shoot and kill a drunk driver that they had pulled over.

In February of 2014, Justin Craven engaged in a car chase with 68-year-old Ernest Satterwhite who Craven suspected of DUI.

After Satterwhite crossed the county line dividing North Augusta from Edgefield County, Satterwhite pulled into a driveway. At this point, Craven left his own vehicle and approached Satterwhite’s.

The dashboard video shows footage of Craven pulling his weapon when he approached the Satterwhite’s vehicle. When a hand emerges from the open window, Craven pulled back, only to reinsert the gun through the weapon at which time shots are fired.

An investigation revealed that not only was Satterwhite unarmed when he was shot, he didn’t even have a weapon in his vehicle

The entire amount of time that passed from Craven first reaching the car and firing his first shot was four seconds.

Craven agreed to plead guilty to misconduct charges in April and was fired from the North Augusta Police Department. In the wake of his plea, he was sentenced to do 80 hours of community service and was placed on a three-year probation.

Craven-and-Satterwhite-500The judge tasked with issuing Craven’s sentence said that while he didn’t agree with or condone Craven’s actions, he could understand how the officer thought he was in danger.

Circuit Judge Frank Addy sentenced Craven. The Standard reported Judge Addy indicated he did not consider the shooting justified, but could understand why Craven thought he was in danger.

Special Agent Michael Stansbury was in charge of the investigation, told the press that while his portion of the investigation was over, he did not know how the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice would choose to handle the case.

Following the incident, North Augusta agreed to a wrongful death settlement with Satterwhite’s estate. The amount of the settlement was $1.2 million.

“These types of cases are so difficult because it’s easy to see both sides point of view,” said Attorney Joseph Sandefur of South Carolina’s top personal injury firm at joeandmartin.com. “On one hand, I find the idea of what is supposed to be a highly trained police officer killing an unarmed man alarming, particularly since I put so much face in the local police departments. On the other hand, I know how much stress the officers have to deal with all the time and realize how easily they can make a mistake.”

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Anytime someone dies as the direct reaction of someone else, such as being shot by a police officer, it’s considered a wrongful death, or a death that could have been prevented.

It’s important to understand that just because the defendant wasn’t found guilty of the crime, it doesn’t mean you don’t have the grounds to create a civil case against them.