FAIRFAX, Va. (AP) — 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 actions during the 2019 traffic stop distasteful but legal.
A video of the 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. Hewitt smiles at the camera and says, "Watch the show, folks” as he puts his arms around Thompson’s neck and hauls him from the car.
After opening the door, video shows Hewitt telling Thompson that he's "gonna get your a** whooped in front of Lord and all creations." As Thompson says he feels threatened and shows that he has his hands up while "doing nothing wrong," Hewitt says Thompson "can take your cellphone with you." Thompson mentions that he has "been threatened by a law officer as two other officers stand by and say absolutely nothing."
After Hewitt tells Thompson to get out of the vehicle again, the Trooper reaches over and unbuckles Thompson's seatbelt. Counting down, Hewitt then takes Thompson into a chokehold position. At this point, the camera is no longer focused on the subjects, but you can hear who is likely Hewitt saying, "How do you like that? Huh?" Thompson responds by saying, "Get off me! My hands are behind my back, sir. My hands are behind my back. I am not resisting. Sir, please get off my neck. I'm not resisting. Get off my neck. Sir, you are harming me! You are harming me!"
During the traffic stop, State Police say Hewitt confirmed that Thompson was driving on a suspended driver's license. They say he also smelled "a strong odor" of marijuana coming from Thompson's car. More Troopers responded to the scene to help the Hewitt with the traffic stop.
State Police say Thompson refused to comply with Hewitt's requests for him to get out of the vehicle, which they say he asked Thompson to do multiple times. Hewitt then told Thompson that Thompson was under arrest.
Officials say Thompson still refused to get out of his vehicle. Thompson was then forcibly removed from the vehicle and taken into custody.
Thompson was taken to the Fairfax County Adult Detention Center, where he underwent a medical evaluation for what State Police say was "a minor abrasion" to his forehead.
Thompson was charged with obstruction of justice, driving on a suspended license and for having an expired inspection decal.