A prosecutor has opted against filing criminal charges against a Virginia State Police trooper who played to the camera as he forcefully removed a Black motorist from his car during a traffic stop.
Fairfax County Commonwealth's Attorney Steve Descano said Tuesday in a statement that he found Trooper Charles Hewitt's action's during the 2019 traffic stop distasteful but legal.
“Although this officer could have used a more appropriate demeanor, his actions do not meet the burden of a criminal offense as it currently appears in the Code of Virginia,” said Descano, who was elected last year on promises to hold police accountable for misconduct.
A video of the 2019 arrest was widely viewed earlier this year showing Hewitt using obscenities and aggressively responding to driver Derrick Thompson when he refused to comply with repeated requests to exit the vehicle during a traffic stop.
Hewitt, who is white, tells Thompson that he's about to get “whooped in front of f--- Lord and all creation" if he continues refusing to get out of the car. Hewitt smiles at the camera and says ”Watch the show, folks" right before he puts his arms around Thompson's neck and hauls him out of the car as the camera goes blank.
Court records indicate Thompson was found guilty last year of resisting arrest and ordered to pay a $250 fine. The records also show Thompson was arrested last month in a separate incident and is awaiting trial for driving while intoxicated and resisting arrest.
Joshua Erlich, a lawyer for Thompson who is not involved in the criminal cases, said he is disappointed that prosecutors opted against bringing criminal charges. He said no final decision has been made, but he expects Thompson will file a civil suit related to his arrest.
“We will not be deterred by this and will push forward until we find justice, whether that's through criminal charges or a civil sui," Erlich told News4.
Virginia State Police internal affairs is investigating the incident.
“Even though criminal charges are not being brought forth in this incident, Trooper Hewitt’s conduct is still inexcusable and not reflective of our department, our personnel, or our standards of conduct,” Virginia State Police Superintendent Col. Gary T. Settle said in a statement. “Now begins the next phase of investigation. The Office of Internal Affairs will immediately conduct a comprehensive review of the entire traffic stop, including the cellphone video provided by Mr. Thompson, to determine if Trooper Hewitt's actions violated Department policy or procedures. As with all administrative investigations, I accept nothing less than a thorough accounting and reporting of the facts of the situation.”