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Virginia State Police launch use-of-force investigation into 2019 traffic stop after cellphone video surfaces

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Posted at 8:46 PM, Jul 15, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-15 21:04:25-04

FAIRFAX Co., Va. - Virginia State Police have launched a criminal investigation into an incident between a driver and a state Trooper during a traffic stop that was captured on cellphone video.

The incident captured on video happened on April 20, 2019. Singer Trey Songz, who is from Petersburg, brought attention to the video after posting it on his Instagram page Wednesday.

Songz also tagged Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam in the video, asking, "Is this what you stand behind?"

In the 2-minute clip, the driver who was pulled over, a Black man who State Police identified as Derrick T. Thompson of Woodbridge, is narrating what is happening during the traffic stop. He says he's "forcibly being removed from" the vehicle after a Trooper, who State Police identified as Trooper C. Hewitt, who is white, reaches through the rolled-down window of Thompson's vehicle, unlocks the door and opens it. In the video, you can see Hewitt moving Thompson's hand away from the lock.

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!"

In a press release, State Police say on the date of the incident, Hewitt initiated a traffic stop on a vehicle that was headed north on I-495 at mile marker 51 in Fairfax County for an expired inspection decal.

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.

State Police say that before this week, they had not received any complaints about the incident.

Officials say due to State Police policy, if anyone sustains even a minor injury while being taken into custody, a use-of-force investigation is required. In accordance with this policy, the agency says Trooper Hewitt requested a sergeant respond to the scene to conduct an investigation. State Police then initiated an administrative investigation to address any violations of department policy and standards of conduct.

Virginia State Police Superintendent Col. Gary T. Settle has reviewed the video, the agency says.

"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," Col. Settle said in a statement.

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