05.10.2022

Officer who played to camera before violently removing Black man from vehicle loses his job

A Virginia State Trooper who played to the camera before violently removing a Black man from his vehicle has left the agency.

Former officer Charles Hewitt can be seen in a 2019 viral video telling Derrick Thompson: “You are going to get your a** whooped,” before forcefully removing him from his car.

Virginia State Police Communications Director Corinne Geller told The Washington Post that her agency couldn’t give any further details, but could divulge that Mr Thompson’s lawyer said he was told during the settlement of a lawsuit prompted by the incident that Mr Hewitt had been fired for cause in February.

Months passed while the video was public before Mr Hewitt had to leave his position. Mr Thompson’s attorney Joshua Erlich said the federal lawsuit had been settled for $20,000 this month. The state admitted no fault on their part.

The lawsuit claimed that Mr Thompson, 29, had been assaulted and that his constitutional rights were violated by the Trooper.

The Virginia Attorney General’s Office confirmed that the lawsuit had been settled but didn’t comment any further, according to The Post. 

Mr Erlich told the paper: “Mr Thompson filed this case because Trooper Hewitt’s behaviour was unconscionable, and Mr Thompson is happy with the outcome.

“He thought he deserved, and received, monetary compensation. And although the VSP did not admit to any wrongdoing, Mr Thompson is heartened Trooper Hewitt is no longer on the street and thinks Virginia is safer for it.”

Mr Erlich first posted the video to Twitter last July. It has received thousands of retweets and has been used many times in news reports.

The video prompted an investigation into the incident by VSP. The agency said no complaint was made about the traffic stop and that they had no records showing that an incident had taken place, WJLA reported. A statement said Mr Thompson was stopped because of an expired registration tag and that officers discovered that he was driving with a suspended license.

Mr Thompson was pulled over on the Beltway in Fairfax County in April 2019. While a Trooper who began the traffic stop said she could smell marijuana coming from the car, Mr Erlich said no drugs were found.

Mr Hewitt was one of three troopers at the scene, and he did all of the talking seen in the subsequent video. Mr Thompson filmed the incident with his mobile. In the video, he’s sitting behind the wheel of his car saying that he’s not a threat and that the request that he leave his vehicle was not in accordance with the law.

He calmly resists Mr Hewitt in large parts of the video. At one point, Mr Hewitt leans in close to Mr Thompson and yells: “Take a look at me. I am a f*****g specimen right here, buddy. You have gotten on my last nerve, all right?”

Mr Thompson tells the Trooper that he has his hands up. Responding, Mr Hewitt says: “You are going to get your a** whooped.”

He then adds: “I’m going to give you one more chance. You can bring that with you, I’ll let you film the whole thing.”

Mr Hewitt later tells Mr Thompson that he is under arrest. The Trooper looks into the camera and says “Watch the show, folks,” and proceeds to violently remove Mr Thompson from the car and arresting him.

Mr Thompson pleaded guilty last year to misdemeanour obstruction of justice.

Virginia State Police superintendent Colonel Garry Settle said in July: “The conduct displayed by Trooper Hewitt during the course of the traffic stop is not in agreement with the established standards of conduct required of a Virginia trooper.

“Nor is it characteristic of the service provided daily across the Commonwealth of Virginia by Virginia State Police personnel.”

An internal investigation had previously cleared Mr Hewitt of any wrongdoing and Fairfax County prosecutors didn’t press charges against him.

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