A Virginia state trooper is under investigation for a traffic stop in 2019 during which he can be heard on video telling a Black driver, “You’re going to get your a– whooped,” before forcefully removing the man from his car, authorities said Wednesday.
An attorney for the motorist, Derrick Thompson, tweeted video on Monday from the encounter that Thompson, 28, recorded with his cellphone.
The attorney, Joshua Erlich, also tweeted a letter that he said he sent to Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring on Monday alleging Thompson was “unconstitutionally assaulted” and his car was illegally searched on I-495 by Trooper Charles Hewitt and other troopers during the stop. Herring did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Tuesday.
State police Superintendent Col. Gary T. Settle said he has seen the two-minute video and that Hewitt has been placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of an investigation.
“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,” Col. Settle said in a statement Wednesday. “Nor is it characteristic of the service provided daily across the Commonwealth of Virginia by Virginia State Police personnel.”
Thompson and Hewitt could not immediately be reached for comment Thursday. The Southern States Police Benevolent Association, the union representing more than 32,000 law enforcement officers including in Virginia, did not return requests for comment.
State police said in Wednesday’s statement that at 4:15 p.m. on April 20, 2019, Thompson was stopped for an expired inspection decal. During the stop, state police said, the trooper confirmed that Thompson was driving with a suspended driver’s license.
“The trooper also detected a strong odor of marijuana coming from inside Thompson’s car,” the statement said, adding that additional troopers responded to assist with the stop.
State police said Thompson “refused to comply with the trooper’s repeated requests to exit his vehicle” and after approximately 10 minutes, Hewitt informed him that he was under arrest.
Thompson still refused to exit his vehicle, according to state police. “Thompson was then forcibly removed from the vehicle and taken into custody,” they said.
Thompson was taken to the Fairfax County Adult Detention Center where “he underwent a medical evaluation for a minor abrasion to his forehead,” state police said.
The clip begins with Thompson sitting in the driver’s seat of his car and Hewitt at the driver’s side window. It is unclear exactly what happened before recording began.
“You can’t do that, sir,” Thompson says to Hewitt, as the trooper tries to unlock the car door. “This officer is trying to unlock my car.”
Thompson appears to attempt to prevent Hewitt from unlocking the door.
Hewitt opens the car door and Thompson says into the camera, “They just illegally entered my car and I am being forcefully removed.”
“Take a look at me,” Hewitt tells Thompson. “I’m a f—— specimen right here, buddy. You have gotten on my last nerve.”
Thompson, still talking into the camera, says, “My hands are up on camera” and that he is no threat to the officers.
“You’re going to get your a– whooped in front of f—— lord and all creation,” Hewitt responds.
He then says: “I’m going to give you one more chance. You can bring that with you — I’ll let you film the whole thing.”
Thompson says, “I’m being threatened right now and I am not doing anything,” to which Hewitt responds, “I’m giving you a chance.”
The two continue to go back and forth. Thompson says: “I feel unsafe and I am in no threat to these three officers. My hands are up. I am doing nothing wrong to provoke anybody or anything.” He also says that he is “making sure that this is all recorded” and that he has been threatened by an officer as two officers stand by and “do nothing.” He turns the camera to the passenger-side door that is open. Another trooper is at the door leaning inside the car.
Hewitt tells Thompson to step out of the car and that he is being placed under arrest for disobeying the commands of an officer, looks into the camera and says, “Watch the show, folks.”
Hewitt is then seen putting his arm around Thompson’s neck and wrestling Thompson out of the car as Thompson cries out for help. Hewitt can be heard saying, “How do you like that motherf—–? How do you like that? Huh? Put your hands behind your back.” The two are no longer in view of the for the remainder of the recording and Thompson says multiple times, “My hands are behind my back” and “I am not resisting.” Thompson can also be heard saying: “Sir, please get off my neck. I am not resisting.” He repeats, “You are harming me” four times before the recording ends.
Thompson’s attorney said his client was forcibly thrown face-down onto the pavement, causing cuts and abrasions to his face and left leg, and that Hewitt put either his elbow or knee on Thompson’s neck while he placed him in handcuffs. The Virginia State Police did not immediately return a request to comment specifically about the allegation Hewitt put an elbow or knee on Thompson’s neck.
The other troopers then searched Thompson’s car and found no evidence of any crime, Erlich said.
Hewitt, 38, then sat Thompson in the front passenger seat of his patrol car and attempted to explain what had just happened, Erlich said. Hewitt insisted it had nothing to do with race and told Thompson his wife is Black and so he could not be racist, according to Erlich.
Thompson told Hewitt “there was no way in hell a Black woman would marry him,” according to Erlich.
Erlich said in an interview Thursday that Thompson was arrested and faced charges that included driving with a suspended license, which was dismissed, and misdemeanor obstruction of justice without force, a charge he pleaded guilty to in Fairfax County General District Court, according to court records.
“Our focus right now is on appropriate discipline for Trooper Hewitt and we are hopeful that the criminal investigation leads to charges,” Erlich said.