VSP trooper placed on administrative leave amid investigation into traffic encounter involving Black driver

Virginia News

(WRIC) – A Virginia State Police trooper, whose caught on cellphone video yanking a Black man out of his vehicle after making verbal threats, has been placed on administrative leave amid an investigation.

Virginia State Police responded to the widely-shared two-minute cellphone clip late Wednesday night, saying that the actions of the trooper, identified as Charles Hewitt, was unbecoming of the strict policies in place regarding employee conduct.

Video of the Fairfax County incident, captured by Derrick Thompson, of Woodbridge, in April 2019, shows the aftermath of a traffic stop. In the cellphone video, Trooper Hewitt unlocks Thompson’s vehicle, opens up the car door, bends down to Thompson and says, while pointing at himself, “take a look at me, I am a [expletive] specimen right here, buddy.”

The trooper continues, “You have gotten on my last nerve,” before he looks directly into the camera and says, “you’re going to get your ass whooped in front of [expletive] Lord and all creation.”

Thompson is holding his hands up as the cellphone video records. He’s heard saying, “I am of no threat to these officers.”

He repeatedly says in the video, “I am being threatened.”

After giving Thompson another warning to exit the vehicle, Hewitt unlocks Thompson’s seat belt. Both exchange words and after Hewitt gives Thompson another warning, he says Thompson is now under arrest for disobeying an officer.

Hewitt then looks into the cellphone camera, counts to two and says, “watch the show folks,” before pulling Thompson out of the vehicle by his neck.

“How do you like that, huh?” Trooper Hewitt is heard saying, although the cellphone camera doesn’t catch footage of the arrest.

“Sir, please get off my neck. I’m not resisting. Get off my neck, sir,” says Thompson. “You are harming me, you are harming me.”

The clip ends.

In the statement released Wednesday, VSP says Thompson was pulled over on Interstate 495 for an expired inspection decal. During the traffic stop, troopers say that Thompson was also driving on a suspended driver’s license. Furthermore, troopers said in the release that a “strong odor of marijuana coming from inside” the vehicle was detected.

According to troopers, Thompson was told to exit the vehicle – a demand ignored by Thompson.

“Approximately 10 minutes later, Trooper Hewitt informed Thompson that he was under arrest. Thompson still refused to exit his vehicle. Thompson was then forcibly removed from the vehicle and taken into custody,” VSP revealed in Wednesday’s statement.

According to VSP, Thompson suffered a “minor abrasion to his forehead,” and received medical treatment at the Fairfax County Adult Detention Center.

“He’s smiling for the camera, he appears to be hamming it up. That’s what makes this video truly terrifying,” said Thompson’s attorney, Joshua Erlich, in a video interview Thursday.

Erlich says he sent a letter to Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring’s office to look into the incident and learn more about Trooper Hewitt. He says his client believes the actions of the trooper were racially motivated.

“This is a video of his worst moment,” Erlich told 8News reporter Alex Thorson. “He was concerned and for good reason, that this was something that he wanted to publicize.”

While no suit has been filed, Erlich says Thompson is seeking punitive damages. He did not specify how much. He does, however, want Trooper Hewitt to be disciplined.

8News reached out to Herring’s office to learn if they have received the letter Derrick Thompson’s attorney sent. No response has been given as of this publication.

Timothy Williams, a retired Los Angeles detective, reviewed the video and said the incident didn’t warrant Trooper Hewitt’s actions.

“The force that you saw there in my opinion was totally excessive,” the expert on officer conduct cases said. “This was again, an infraction.”

Williams adds that VSP should seek disciplinary action against Trooper Hewitt, saying “what he did was wrong, dead wrong.”

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