Columbia, SC (WLTX) - A former South Carolina state trooper has pleaded guilty to charges related to shooting an unarmed man at a Columbia gas station in 2014, an incident that received national attention and was a flash point in an ongoing debate about the appropriate use of force by police officers.
Groubert entered the plea inside a courthouse in Richland County Monday afternoon on a charge of assault and battery of a high and aggravated nature in the shooting of Levar Jones. Jones was in court for the proceeding.
Previous Coverage: Video Released of Trooper Shooting Man at Gas Station
The judge in the case ordered him to be taken into custody until a pre-sentencing investigation and hearing can take place. The maximum penalty for the charge is 20 years in prison.
During the hearing, Groubert and his attorney told the judge he's being treated for post-traumatic stress disorder from an incident that happened in 2012, and is taking anti-depressants. They asked that he be allowed to continue to get treatment for his condition while he's detained.
Back on September 4, 2014, Groubert stopped Jones for what he would later say was a seat belt violation outside a Circle K store on Broad River Road in Columbia.
A dash cam video showed what happened next. Jones exited his vehicle, and Groubert commanded him to get his license. Moments later, as Jones reached into his car to get the credential, Groubert began yelling at Jones to "get out of the car" firing several shots as he did.
Jones was hit by one bullet in the hip. He stumbled back, and fell to the ground.
While on the ground Jones said, "I have my license right here, you said get my license."
Groubert can be heard asking Jones if he was hit by a bullet and went on to say, "Bro, you dove head first back into your car."
The highway patrol is a division of the South Carolina Department of :Public Safety, and that agency's director, Leroy Smiith, fired Groubert after reviewing the video. Smith called the incident "disturbing," saying Groubert "reacted to a perceived threat where there was none."
Jones ultimately reached a $285,000 settlement with the state of South Carolina over the incident. As part of the arrangement, Jones agreed to not pursue any further lawsuits related to the shooting.
Groubert had been involved in another officer-involved shooting once before. In 2012, he pulled over a speeding suspect on Interstate 20 near Columbia. After the stop, the man drove off, and eventually was cornered by Groubert and other officers outside a bank. The suspect fired at officers, who responded by hitting and injuring the suspect.
Groubert was awarded the Medal of Valor by the SCDPS in 2013 for his actions during that incident.
This is not the only legal problems Groubert has had to face since the shooting. In November of last year, Richland County sheriff's deputies charged him with shoplifting, after Walmart employees said he and his wife changed the price tags on items to save themselves over $100 at the self-checkout register.
Online court records show that case is still pending.