A $1 million settlement has been reached with North Augusta police and officials in Edgefield County in the case of Ernest Satterwhite, a 68-year-old black man shot to death by a police officer after a slow-speed car chase last year.
“All parties have settled the case,” said Carter Elliott, attorney for the Satterwhite family, in a telephone interview.
North Augusta paid $1,195,000 to settle the case, and Edgefield County and its sheriff’s office contributed another $2,500, Carter said.
The case involves Satterwhite, a great-grandfather and former mechanic who was shot by 25-year-old North Augusta Public Safety Officer Justin Craven. The officer chased Satterwhite for nine miles beyond North Augusta and into Edgefield County.
Satterwhite was shot to death after he parked in his own driveway. Edgefield County deputies who joined in the chase reported that Craven ran up to Satterwhite’s parked car and fired several shots into the driver’s side door, telling the other officers that Satterwhite tried to grab his gun. The other officers couldn’t get Satterwhite’s door open, so they broke the passenger side window, unlocked that door and dragged him out.
The lawsuit filed by the Satterwhite family alleged Craven ignored the Edgefield deputies’ orders to stop and let them manage the chase when it entered their county, about 2 miles from Satterwhite’s home. It alleged Satterwhite never tried to grab the officer’s gun when Craven fired five times, hitting him with four bullets – two in the chest.
The family says the officers yanked the mortally wounded man out of the car, restrained him and left him on the ground unattended until paramedics arrived.
Craven currently works for the City of North Augusta Building Standards Department after being reassigned from his position in public safety, according to Lt. Tim Thornton.
The State Law Enforcement Division denied a request filed by The Associated Press under the Freedom of Information Act to learn what evidence was gathered involving Craven.
According to Augusta Chronicle archives, an investigation into the case determined Craven broke the law. A prosecutor initially sought to charge him with voluntary manslaughter, punishable by up to 30 years in prison. But the grand jury disagreed, indicting him on a misdemeanor.
The criminal aspect of the case is pending, Thornton said.
Police records show Satterwhite had been arrested more than a dozen times for traffic violations, most of them for driving under suspension or under the influence. Most of the charges led to convictions. He also was charged at least three times for failing to stop as officers tried to pull him over. But his record shows no evidence he ever physically fought with an officer.
Staff writer Doug Stutsman contributed to this story.