Jury sees patrol car video

GREENVILLE, S.C. --- 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.

 

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

Despite Lance Cpl. Garren's boasting, his lawyer argued that the trooper tried to avoid hitting Marvin Grant, who was running from police after trying to elude officers in his car in June 2007.

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

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

The officer's dashboard camera captured the chase, which was no more than 15 mph, and shows Mr. Grant flipping over the patrol car's hood as he is struck.

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

"Yeah, I was trying to," Sgt. Smith said the trooper told him.

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

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

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

A day later, Mr. 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 Mr. Grant didn't face any charges.

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

Lance Cpl. Garren's attorney, John O'Leary, said in his opening arguments that the officer was just doing his job.

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

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

Lance Cpl. 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 the Department of Public Safety earlier this year.