Georgia Officer Indicted In Shooting Of Unarmed Driver

ernest-satterwhite7389335_G A Georgia grand jury has indicted former police officer Justin Gregory Craven (left) for the shooting death of an unarmed driver, Ernest Satterwhite, 68, through his car window following a car chase. What is interesting about the case is the grand jury rejected homicide charges and the prosecutors then asked and received a charge for discharging a firearm into an occupied vehicle.

Craven says that he chased Satterwhite about a dozen miles until Satterwhite pulled up to what turned out to be his driveway. Craven fired multiple shots into the car after he said Satterwhite struggled with him and tried to grab his gun.

The alternative charge is a bit curious since it would still seem to depend on the underlying facts. If the shooting was justified in the view of the grand jury in self-defense, then presumably Craven was justified in discharging his firearm into the car.

Under the lesser charge, Craven could still received up to 10 years in prison.

This comes after a Cleveland police officer was found not guilty on Saturday in the 2012 shooting deaths of an unarmed black man and a woman after a high-speed car chase — a story that we previously discussed. Michael Brelo, 31, was charged with two counts of voluntary manslaughter in the deaths of Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams following a Nov. 29, 2012 police chase and shooting. Brelo insists that he does not remember standing on the hood and firing the final 15 rounds into the windshield — 15 of a 137-shot barrage. However, a fellow officer said that a few days later Brelo discussed the incident with apparent clarity of memory. Only Brelo was charged among the 13 officers that night who fired the barrage. In all, however, he fired 49 of the 137 rounds. His counsel insists that he remained in danger until he reached into the Malibu and removed the keys. The theory is that the car was the weapon. The failure to charge any other officers and the acquittal has raised questions over the accountability of officers.

The securing of the lesser charge against Craven clearly responds to similar concerns raised about the failure to secure an indictment. However, there remains the disconnect between the rationale for denying the earlier charge and bringing this charge if the grand jurors found the officer’s account to be credible.

18 thoughts on “Georgia Officer Indicted In Shooting Of Unarmed Driver”

  1. For those who might have experienced it, by “heavy pressure” I am referring to the advanced training at “Tigerland” aka Fort Polk circa late 60’s. That sort of thing might not be allowed today. But it should be.

  2. Caren Coile … I don’t think it is as simple as “justification” … as I mentioned on another thread, “fear” can cause irrational acts, and I wonder how much “fear” is present in the actions of officers who otherwise would be rational, but momentarily go off the rails. None-the-less, we have no choice but to leave it to the justice system to make that determination. I know quite a few police officers and most would not have reacted as this one did, even after a pursuit, and definitely one ending in a home driveway. Perhaps as part of police training we need to include physical responses to very heavy pressure and evaluate officers on that before they earn their badges. In advanced military training it is part of the regimen. Measured response to imminent danger. How you react to being scared, which we all are to some degree (or you’re nuts) is important. Well trained soldiers know how to push through the fear. I know of no police “protocol” that advocates irrational actions. But it can happen. We can improve on it and change it, if we will.

  3. Indicted is not “found guilty”. This too will be excused/justified as police protocol.

  4. Sarcastic Fringehead … you are right about many police and fire sirens….barely audible. Fortunately, those used by the police, and especially the fire department here, cannot be missed…combination of sirens and horns that if anyone can’t hear them coming they should not be driving at all. A fire truck coming down the road, front or rear can shake you to the bones with their horns and sirens….more like a freight train than a truck or car. Oddly, perhaps, we all seem to get it that it means pull over & get out of the way. Ordinarily, our drivers are among the most aggressive insolent drivers in the USA. You know you are in Michigan when the pick up truck behind you is so close you cannot see their headlights….at 85 mph.

  5. The sirens they use are worthless. High frequency sounds just don’t carry, and older folks lose the high freqs first. I’ve had a cop car with siren going trying to pass me, didn’t know he was there, didn’t hear the siren until he passed. No radio, cool weather, windows rolled up. European sirens are better, but not by much. That may be why this old man didn’t pull over. Kids with rap music, big woofers in their cars, you can hear them a block away. That’s the kind of siren cops need.

    The grand jury rejected homicide charges because the DA told them to, or they’d never get to leave the grand jury room. Struggle with the gun? Who believes that? Pathetic.

  6. TJustice … something else I’d note, although it involves “dogs” so I hope I’m not excoriated for bringing them in to the discussion. Most dogs (and wolves to some extent) when they go berserk and appear to be attacking irrationally (because they are) are doing so out of fear, not dominance. I see a similarity in people, where fear drives defensive behavior beyond what would be necessary otherwise. The case where an officer jumped up on the hood of a car blazing away seems like an example of what I am saying. Among other things, in a firefight it is foolish, and almost always fatal to you, if you expose yourself in such a manner, when you know or think the threat is real, when alternatives are available. I wasn’t there so I can’t judge, but the actions taken do puzzle me. I also think I understand the ruling in that case by the judge…out of 137 shoots fired, how could one determine if a specific 15 were the lethal ones. A very sad case.

  7. TJustice … perhaps it was just the way you worded the phrase I cited. It seemed omnibus, not specific so I took it to include me….and others whom I know don’t feel the way you implied. You again cite “People on here” without even relative specifics. You could have said “some” people, which might be accurate. Then I’d react differently as I am never impressed by anyone who advocates killing as if it is easy, including some people who have commented here, but by all means a minority. I am fairly certain that most of us here want equitable resolution to any killing, whether by gangsters or police when it occurs. Regrettably we don’t seem to have a solution of any kind for the gangster elements…and what I read of Baltimore today really does remind me of Detroit circa mid 1970’s….and I suspect the corruption will precede the resolution. Representation of the majority is not the problem, that is reasonable, there as here, it is the motivations of those who have achieved the higher office. We went through a few decades of selfish corruption before we finally began to turn a corner. I hope it holds.

  8. This event unfortunately took place in my state of South Carolina, not Georgia. North Augusta is across the river and so is in SC. I have not followed the case closely, but the shooting took place in February 2014. The officer had been on administrative leave to the day of his arrest, according to a WaPo article reproduced in The State newspaper:

  9. Aridog

    People on here act like its easy when someone in a uniform evaporates a young person, not me.
    I want some justice, it’s really basic – someone kills then they should be subject to punishment like all of us without a uniform. It’s basic for the rule of law too, but not politics and racial outlook.

  10. TJustice said …

    I think people on here wish they could do what police do …

    Sorry you feel that way. Some of have been through far more fire fight scenarios than any police officer. You talk like it is easy and gratuitous. If I never fire a weapon again at anything but clay pigeons or paper targets I will be a very satisfied man. That’s because I know the difference. Do you?

    I’m not trying to be hostile to your remark, only to point out that when you make sweeping allegations like the one you did, you actually harm some of us where it hurts…in the heart. I quit hunting when I returned home, simply because I no longer wanted to kill anything, white, black, yellow, four legged or two. That does not mean I can’t. That doesn’t mean I don’t eat meat. It means the idea of one on one is anathema, as police must face, and at times can shake me awake from a sound sleep. The presumption that I might “want” to do something as you suggest is preposterous. As I said, I am truly sorry you feel that way.

  11. As I stated in a previous post, there will be no real solution to the problem of police brutality and other misconduct until, among other remedies, police officers are required to become personally responsible, financially, for their misconduct, rather than foisting those costs onto taxpayers.

    “Cash-strapped Chicago [alone] has paid half a billion dollars in police brutality settlements since 2004

    “With 49 elementary schools closing this summer, with pensions being slashed, and with public services being cut all over Chicago, the city now admits it has paid out over $521 million in settlements and legal fees due to police violence, misconduct ,and abuse over the past 10 years alone—with a whopping 500 cases still pending.

    “What’s more, criminal justice experts say new lawsuits will surely keep filling the pipeline until the city addresses a so-called ‘code of silence’ – where officers refuse to tell on each other for misbehavior – and a flawed disciplinary system that together allow misconduct to prosper.

    “In all, the Better Government Association (BGA) found a total of $521.3 million has been spent to handle police misconduct-related lawsuits from 2004 to the present day.

    “The true cost, though, is even higher, as the BGA counted settlements and judgments, legal bills and other fees – but not less tangible expenses related to, say, insurance premiums, in-house lawyers and investigators, and the cost of incarcerating innocents.

    “In the government-sponsored study to track the outrageous costs of police brutality in Chicago, the following examples of what could have and should have been done with half a billion dollars in the city were given:

    “Could build five high schools like the state-of-the-art building the city recently developed in the Back of the Yards neighborhood. The 212,000-square-foot school has space for 1,200 students and includes five computer labs, six science labs, a gymnasium and an indoor swimming pool.
    “Could pay for the repaving of 500 miles of arterial streets, based on a city spokesman’s estimate of it costing $1 million per road mile.

    “Could cover the cost of building 33 libraries like the one scheduled to open this summer in the Albany Park neighborhood. The 16,300-square-foot building includes a landscaped reading garden and 38 public computer terminals.

    “Yet, instead of any of those of wonderful things, the Chicago Police Department and the city’s broken criminal justice system leaves an ugly trail of ruined lives and paid settlements instead.”

  12. The bottom line is that the cops flipped out. 149 shots, standing on the hood of a car shooting into it. This is nothing more than adrenaline fueled actions that should not be defended. The judge let him go because it could not be proved that his several dozen shots killed anybody. Some how no matter how ridiculous it sounds, when the intention is to acquit, it has to make sense, cuz a judge said it.

  13. Dereliction of duty?

    You got to be kidding. A black police force is refusing to police a black city. Race doesn’t enter into it. At least not in the way you think it does.

    The black cops don’t want to get jammed up protecting an ungrateful city from the skells that Baltimore loves so much.

    You want to worship criminals and excuse their behavior and put every arrest under a microscope. Well you got it.

    What is going on in Baltimore is a direct result of the concentrated planned and orchestrated attack on police the function of policing.It is also a function of the savages running wild without aggressive police tactics holding the lid down on a boiling pot. The Freddie Greys and Michael Browns had a field day this Memorial Day Weekend. Thirty shootings and nine dead bodies hit the pavement.

    Police who do wrong should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. The grand jury refused to bring a homicide charge. I would think that they looked at the evidence in greater depth than the typical Turley cop bashing blog post.

  14. Cops have a tough job. But I do not believe they should ever be justified in doing something that anyone else couldn’t get away with. Self-defense law should be the same for everybody. Otherwise, the badge becomes, and will certainly be perceived as, a license to kill.

  15. How about Baltimore police since the protests and riots? How about that for the rule of law… or dereliction of duty?

    Steve Fleischer is right.

    I think people on here wish they could do what police do because then they could claim race plays no role, but it is only the noble objective of the rule of law. Sorry, we see through that.

  16. I thought of the car as the weapon theory. However, once they pulled into the driveway and stopped there is also no more danger. If they would have then started backing up I would not blame the cop for shooting the occupants as they pose a potential danger to him/others. If the occupants made a sudden movement within the vehicle after such a reckless and dangerous action I would also find room for an acquittal, which is perhaps what the officer claimed, whether truthfully or not. Such a thing would be very hard to disprove.

  17. These cases just reinforce that police are not subject to the laws that govern the behavior of ordinary Americans.

  18. I have to agree. It appears that the grand jury wanted to find something but couldn’t, so went for the shooting into the car.

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