police stops

Virginia Trooper's Conduct in Stop of Black Driver on Beltway Is Under Investigation

Derrick Thompson was on the way to work when he was stopped for having an expired inspection decal

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Virginia State Police are conducting an investigation of a police stop on the Capital Beltway last year after video of the incident showed a trooper telling a Black driver “you’re going to get your a-- whooped.” 

Police say they launched a criminal investigation after video was published on social media this week of the traffic stop in April 2019. A lawyer for driver Derrick Thompson, a Woodbridge, Virginia, resident, sent a letter to Attorney General Mark Herring. 

“Derrick Thompson was driving to work when Hewitt terrorized and assaulted him,” attorney Joshua Erlich wrote. 

He says the trooper assaulted Thompson and conducted an illegal search of his vehicle. 

"I've never seen a video like this before," Erlich, a civil rights attorney, told News4.

State police say a trooper stopped Thompson at 4:15 p.m. April 20, 2019 on the Beltway at mile marker 51 in Fairfax County. He had an expired inspection decal, police said. 

Video posted to Twitter on Monday shows troopers at Thompson’s car window. It’s unclear what happened before the cellphone video begins. Thompson sits in his car as a trooper, who is white, orders him to get out. 

“I’m giving you to the count of three,” the trooper says. “Now you’re under arrest for disobeying an officer.” 

The trooper smiles at the camera and says “Now watch the show, folks.” 

The camera drops and a struggle can be heard. 

“How do you like that? Put your hands behind your back,” the trooper can be heard saying.

“My hands are behind my back, sir. Sir, get off my neck, sir,” Thompson says. Then the two-minute video ends. 

Erlich said he found the video disturbing.

"Trooper Hewitt appears to be enjoying himself. He appears to be hamming it up for the camera and that’s really what’s terrifying," he said.

State police Superintendent Col. Gary T. Settle commented on the video and the behavior of Trooper C. Hewitt. 

“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,” he said in a statement.

Hewitt was placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation. 

State police say Hewitt found that Thompson was driving with a suspended license. A trooper also “detected a strong odor of marijuana” in the car, they said. Thompson refused repeated requests to get out of the car and was “forcibly removed” and taken into custody after about 10 minutes, police said. 

Thompson was taken to the county jail and treated for “a minor abrasion” to his forehead. He was charged with obstruction of justice, driving on a suspended license and for the expired inspection decal.

Thompson’s lawyer said no marijuana was ever found. Thompson pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor obstruction of justice charge. 

Police initiated a use-of-force investigation after the incident. News4 asked for the results of the investigation but police said state law prohibited its release.

The department holds troopers to high standards, they said. 

“The Virginia State Police adheres to strict policies regarding employee conduct and requires our employees to perform their duties with exceptional professionalism and integrity, and to treat the public with fairness and respect at all times,” they said in a statement. 

Thompson has not ruled out a civil lawsuit, his lawyer said.

Stay with NBC Washington for more details on this developing story. 

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