Virginia State Police investigating 2019 traffic stop involving Black driver

A Virginia State Trooper has been placed on administrative leave while the department investigates a 2019 traffic stop in Fairfax County involving a Black driver.

“The conduct displayed by Trooper (Charles) Hewitt during the course of the traffic stop is not in agreement with the established standards of conduct required of a Virginia trooper. Nor is it characteristic of the service provided daily across the Commonwealth of Virginia by Virginia State Police personnel,” Superintendent Col. Gary T. Settle said in a statement.

Video of the encounter on April 20, 2019 between driver Derrick T. Thompson, of Woodbridge, and Hewitt surfaced on social media Monday.

When Virginia State Police received the social media post of the video, they started an investigation. They said that they did not receive any complaints over what happened or the people involved before this week.

The video circulating on social media starts after troopers approached the door of Thompson’s car. It’s unclear what occurred before the start of the video.

You can watch the video below. (Editor’s note: Some of the language in the video may be offensive to some viewers.)

At around 4:15 p.m. Thompson was traveling north on Interstate 495 at the 51 mile marker in Fairfax County when he was stopped for an expired inspection decal.

A Virginia State Police news release said that a trooper confirmed that Thompson was driving on a suspended driver’s license, and the trooper believed that there was a strong odor of marijuana in the vehicle.

Joshua Erlich posted a letter he sent to Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring, saying that his client did not consent when the trooper announced that she intended to search his vehicle.

Additional troopers came on the scene to assist with the search. Thompson placed his cell phone on the dashboard to film the interaction.

Virginia State Police said that Thompson refused to comply with repeated requests to get out of the vehicle.

In Erlich’s letter detailing what happened, Thompson told Hewitt that he believed that the search and his detention were not legal.

They continued to exchange words, and Thompson directed Hewitt to the camera that was recording, Erlich’s letter said.

Hewitt reached through the driver’s side window of Thompson’s car to unlock the car and opened the door.

Thompson can be heard saying that he feels unsafe and that his hands are up; Hewitt can be heard saying, “You’re going to get your ass whooped in front of all creation,” and “You can bring that (cell phone) with you; I’ll let you film the whole thing.”

Thompson talks to the camera, saying that he is not resisting and that his hands are up, and Hewitt can be heard saying that he is giving Thompson a chance and to the count of three.

Hewitt removes Thompson’s seat belt, as Thompson tells the camera that he is not resisting and his hands are up.

As Hewitt touches Thompson, he asks the trooper not to touch him. It is then that Hewitt says, “That’s when we come to a disagreement.” Hewitt then says, “I’m giving you to the count of three.”

Hewitt then told Thompson that he was under arrest. Thompson did not get out of the vehicle when asked, repeating that his detention was not lawful, Erlich’s letter said.

Looking into the camera, Hewitt says, “Watch the show, folks.”

Thompson was then forcibly removed from his vehicle, and taken into custody, Virginia State Police said.

Off-camera voices can be heard. One saying, “How do you like that?” and “Put your hands behind your back.” Another can be heard saying, “I am not resisting,” “My hands are behind my back,” and “Sir, please get off my neck.”

Thompson was taken to the Fairfax County jail, where he underwent medical evaluation for a “minor abrasion” to his forehead, Virginia State Police said. He was charged with obstruction of justice, driving on a suspended license and for the expired inspection.

Erlich said Thompson had cuts and abrasion to his face and left leg from being facedown on the pavement and that his face “bled profusely.” Thompson also requested medical assistance before he was taken to the jail. Erlich said the request was ignored.

Per police policy, a use-of-force investigation was requested by Hewitt due to the injury Thompson sustained during the arrest.

After Virginia State Police completes its findings of the traffic stop, the investigation will be turned over to the Commonwealth’s Attorney for final review and adjudication.

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