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Levar Jones urges maximum sentence for Sean Groubert during State House rally

Levar Jones, a Columbia motorist shot during a 2014 traffic stop by a state trooper, said during a rally at the State House on Saturday the officer should get the maximum sentence possible.

Jones said he is demanding former officer Sean Groubert be given a sentence of 20 years in prison. The case attracted nationwide publicity as one of a series of controversial shootings of black men and youths by white police officers.

Groubert “took it upon himself to decide to be judge, juror and executionist and felt he needed to kill me over a seatbelt – a simple seatbelt,” Jones said to the more than 300 people attending the Building Communities and Families rally.

Jones, who has spoken little publicly about the shooting before Saturday, is African-American. Groubert is white.

Jones complained that Groubert still has not been sentenced, four months after pleading guilty to assault and battery of a high and aggravated nature.

Not only did Groubert try to kill Jones for following his verbal commands, Jones said, he also told other officers that Jones charged Groubert aggressively, Jones said.

“I made sure that officer had a fair trial, and he walked into the courtroom and pled guilty,” Jones said.

The incident began when Jones, on his way home from work, went to the Broad River Road gas station and unfastened his seat belt as he pulled in.

Jones was out of the car when Groubert pulled up and asked to see his license. Jones was reaching back into the vehicle to retrieve his wallet, when Groubert fired. One bullet struck Jones in the hip.

After the video in Groubert’s car showed he had no reason to draw his gun and shoot Jones, Groubert was fired and arrested.

Jones, in a separate settlement, was paid $285,000 through the state’s Insurance Reserve Fund.

Rally organizer Chris Sullivan said 375 people gathered Saturday at the State House in response to the recent shooting of police officers and the police killings of African-American men in Baton Rouge and Minnesota.

Sullivan, of Building Communities and Families in Columbia, helped organize the morning rally. His mom, Senorita Sullivan, waited for the rally to begin with Chris’s 7-year-old son Cameron and 10-year-old niece Carrington.

“We should love others no matter what they look like,” Carrington said.

Roberta McKelvin, of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, also attended the rally and said she lost her son to senseless gun violence. She attended the rally to show unity, she said.

Barricades surrounded the event, and police from multiple agencies, including the Columbia Police Department, Department of Natural Resources, State Law Enforcement Division and state Transport Police, monitored the event.

Meanwhile, 24-year-old Raechel Blakeney attended the rally because she wanted to see demonstrations about how to be safer in the community.

One demonstration, by Bruce Trezevant of Project Unity USA, showed a scenario of a vehicle being stopped by a police officer.

Trezevant, a former Los Angeles Police Department officer, stressed that those being pulled over need to do everything the police officer asks. He told those attending not to talk trash if they are interacting with a police officer. If there is an issue, then the person should file a complaint with the agency later, he said.

Blakeney said she appreciated the demonstration, but sometimes people do exactly what they are supposed to and the incident still ends in “horror.”

The only way things will change is if people make an effort to see others’ points of view, Blakeney said.

Chandra Cleveland Jennings of the Columbia Protection Agency emphasized three concepts when she spoke – knowledge, responsibility and accountability.

“You have a responsibility to obey the laws,” she said, adding people also have the responsibility to make sure the people they elect uphold and support the law.

Protests have occurred nationwide as police killings of African-American men have made headlines.

In addition, alleged shooter Micah Xavier Johnson shot at police officers in Dallas during a protest, killing five officers.

Last Sunday, Black Lives Matter protesters temporarily blocked an intersection near the State House and a section of Interstate 126. There were no arrests or injuries.

Cassie Cope: 803-771-8657, @cassielcope

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