Jury watches video of suspect hit by SC trooper

By: AP
By: AP

GREENVILLE, S.C. (AP) -- A federal jury that must decide whether a South Carolina state trooper deliberately rammed a fleeing suspect with his patrol car watched a video of the incident Tuesday, and heard the officer bragging about the collision.

"Yeah, I hit him. I was trying to hit him," Lance Cpl. Steven Garren was heard on the video speaking to a sheriff's deputy.

Despite Garren's boasting, his lawyer argued that the trooper tried to avoid hitting Marvin Grant, who was running from police after a traffic stop in June 2007.

Garren is charged with using unreasonable force and depriving Grant of his civil rights. Garren is white; Grant is black.

If convicted, the suspended officer could face up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

The officer's dashboard camera captured the chase and shows Grant flipping over the patrol car's hood as he is struck. As the jury watched the footage, the sound of sirens and images of flashing police lights filled the courtroom.

During testimony, two Greenwood County sheriff's deputies also said Garren bragged about hitting Grant. Sgt. Derrick Smith recalled asking the trooper about striking the suspect.

"I nailed the (expletive) out of him," Smith said the trooper told him. "Yeah, I was trying to."

The other deputy, Brad Ware, said he called his supervisor because he was worried Grant may have been injured.

Grant told jurors that he cut in front of the cruiser when he saw an opening in the woods. The patrol car knocked him down, but he "just bounced right up and kept running," Grant said. "I wasn't thinking about no pain."

Grant said he began to hurt a short distance later and couldn't run anymore. Authorities couldn't find him.

A day later, Grant said he tried to turn himself in, but an officer told him they would call if he was wanted. The call never came, and Grant didn't face any charges.

Grant said he spent three weeks on crutches, but he never saw a doctor. He is currently in jail for failing to pay child support.

O'Leary said in his opening arguments that Garren was just doing his job.

"He was pursuing a criminal and now they want to make him a criminal," O'Leary told jurors. "There was no way - no way - he could have avoided hitting him."

O'Leary also showed jurors a video of Garren handling a domestic violence complaint, saying it was an example of the officer responding calmly and professionally to tense situations.

Garren's trial is the first of two federal civil rights trials to come from a spate of police videos that showed questionable tactics by South Carolina troopers. The videos and how supervisors treated the officers on them brought the ousters of the heads of the Highway Patrol and Department of Public Safety earlier this year.

Garren was initially suspended for three days. He has been suspended since his federal indictment in June.

The videos have drawn scrutiny from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the state's Legislative Black Caucus, which helped bring the videos to the public's attention.


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