A Virginia state trooper has been placed on administrative leave while the department conducts an investigation into his conduct during a 2019 traffic stop that involved a black driver.
What are the details?
During the traffic stop, Trooper Charles Hewitt is shown repeatedly asking the driver, Derrick Thompson, to exit the vehicle in order for officers to perform a search.
When Thompson declines, Hewitt begins aggressively taunting him before forcibly removing him from the vehicle, saying, "How do you like that, motherf***er!" as he allegedly pins Thompson on the ground.
"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," Superintendent Col. Gary T. Settle said in a news release regarding the incident and subsequent investigation.
Video of the incident, recorded on Thompson's cellphone, was posted to social media by his attorney, Joshua Erlich, on Monday.
Warning: The following video contains vulgar language that may be offensive to some viewers.
Today, we sent a letter to @MarkHerringVA about Virginia State Trooper Charles Hewitt. In April 2019, Derrick Thom… https://t.co/Q3gPh49kXx— Joshua Erlich (@Joshua Erlich)1594651920.0
Virginia State Police, who launched the investigation after the video was posted on social media, said they had not received any complaint about the incident before this week.
What happened during the traffic stop?
Police added in the news release that Thompson was pulled over on April 20, 2019, in Fairfax County after his vehicle was found to have an expired inspection decal.
The trooper who pulled Thompson over — who was not Hewitt — then discovered that Thompson was driving with a suspended driver's license. She also reportedly detected a "strong odor of marijuana" coming from inside the car and initiated a search of the vehicle.
Police said that Thompson refused to exit the vehicle despite repeated requests for him to do so.
Hewitt, who came to assist with the traffic stop, then placed Thompson under arrest over his refusal to cooperate with law enforcement — and that's where the footage appears to start.
"Take a look at me. I'm a f***ing specimen right here, buddy," Hewitt said, noticeably angry. "You're going to get your a** whooped in front of f***ing Lord and all creation."
"Sir, my hands are up. I'm in no threat to the officer," replied Thompson, who was allegedly on his way to work at the time. "They just illegally opened my car and I'm being forcibly removed."
"I'm giving you till the count of three. Don't do this," Hewitt then warns before beginning to count.
Hewitt then looks at the camera and says, "Watch the show, folks," as he puts Thompson in a chokehold and removes him from the vehicle.
The video then turns to black while Thompson can be heard pleading with Hewitt to get off of his neck and Hewitt can be heard saying, "How do you like that, motherf***er!"
Thompson was then transported to Fairfax County Adult Detention Center, where he was charged with obstruction of justice, driving on a suspended license, and for the expired inspection decal. He was also treated for an abrasion to his forehead.
No drugs were found in the vehicle, according to law enforcement.
According to state policy, when someone sustains even a minor injury, a use of force investigation is required. At Hewitt's request, an investigation into the matter ensued, along with an additional administrative investigation. But apparently no action was deemed necessary at the time.
Now, with the release of the video, a separate investigation is taking place.
Police said that once the department concludes its findings, the file will be turned over to the Commonwealth of Virginia's attorney for further review and subsequent action.