A North Augusta Public Safety officer who was indicted on Aug. 27 for the February shooting death of a man was not placed on administrative leave until Thursday, according to an attorney representing the police department.
Officer Justin Gregory Craven was indicted by an Edgefield County grand jury last week on one count of official misconduct in office. However, even after the official indictment, the agency did not place Craven on administrative leave until Thursday – more than a week after the indictment – according to Lake Summers, a Columbia attorney representing the North Augusta Department of Public Safety.
Summers said he is an “outside counsel” for the City of North Augusta.
Craven, who has been with North Augusta Public Safety for three years, is accused of shooting 68-year-old Earnest Satterwhite Sr. on Feb. 9 after a police chase that began in North Augusta and ended in Edgefield County, officials have said.
That evening, Craven tried to initiate a traffic stop on Knox Avenue in North Augusta because of a suspected DUI about 7:30 p.m., but rather than stop, the driver sped off, police said.
The pursuit traveled north on U.S. 25 toward Edgefield County, causing two accidents in addition to damage to personal property, police said. The pursuit ended in front of Satterwhite’s home on Rose Drive in Edgefield.
Craven approached the vehicle, an altercation ensued and shots were fired, according to previous reports. It was then that Craven reportedly shot Satterwhite.
The indictment states that Craven “willfully, knowingly, intentionally and unlawfully” committed official misconduct in office “by shooting the victim with a handgun using excessive force and failing to follow and use proper procedures when apprehending Earnest Satterwhite and firing his handgun into and killing Earnest Satterwhite, breaching the duties of trustworthiness, accountability, properly discharging his official duties and other duties ...”
According to the Edgefield County public index, there was a charge of voluntary manslaughter filed against Craven on Aug. 27; however, the status of that charge was listed as “Disposed.”
Lt. Tim Thornton, a spokesman for North Augusta Public Safety, said Thursday that Craven has been placed on administrative leave with pay “pending the outcome of the situation.”
The Augusta Chronicle quoted Thornton earlier this week as saying that Craven had been reassigned to another division. When asked by the Aiken Standard, Thornton deferred all questions and requests to Columbia attorney Lake Summers, of Malone, Thompson, Summers and Ott LLC.
The questions Thornton refused to answer include questions regarding Craven’s reassignment, when Craven was placed on leave, questions about the charges against the officer and how long he has been with North Augusta Public Safety.
It is unclear if Craven has been or will be arrested, or if he will have to turn himself in to authorities. Summers deferred those questions to the S.C. State Law Enforcement Division and the 11th Circuit Solicitor’s Office.
A SLED spokesman said the case has been turned over to the 11th Circuit Solicitor’s Office. A message left with that office was not returned by press time Thursday.
Teddy Kulmala covers the crime and courts beat for the Aiken Standard and has been with the newspaper since August 2012. He is a native of Williston and majored in communication studies at Clemson University.