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Virginia State Police investigating violent traffic stop involving black motorist, official says

Virginia State Trooper Charles Hewitt arrested Derrick Thompson on April 20, 2019 during a traffic stop in Fairfax County. (Video: Derrick Thompson)
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A Virginia State trooper is under investigation for a traffic stop last year during which he can be heard on video telling a black driver “you are going to get your a-- whooped,” before forcefully removing the man from his car, authorities said Wednesday.

The incident came to light when an attorney representing Derrick Thompson, the driver, sent a letter to Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring on Monday claiming that Trooper Charles Hewitt unconstitutionally assaulted his client during the stop on I-495 in Fairfax County on April 20, 2019. The attorney also tweeted video of the encounter that Thompson recorded with his cellphone.

The Virginia State Police superintendent, Col. Gary T. Settle, has reviewed the two-minute cellphone video clip, according to a statement from the Virginia State Police.

“The conduct displayed by Trooper 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,” Settle said in the statement.

Virginia Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security Brian Moran called the video “unacceptable” in a text message.

The clip begins with Thompson, who appears only to passively resist Hewitt, sitting in the driver’s seat of his car and Hewitt at the door following a stop for an expired inspection decal. Another trooper, who initiated the stop, said she smelled the odor of marijuana coming from Thompson’s car and wanted to search it, police said.

At one point during the stop, Thompson tells Hewitt that his detention and a request for him to get out of the car were unlawful.

Hewitt leans toward Thompson and yells: “Take a look at me. I am a f---ing specimen right here, buddy. You have gotten on my last nerve, all right?”

Thompson then tells Hewitt he has his hands up.

Hewitt responds: “You are going to get your a-- whooped.” He repeats the f-word before saying, “I’m going to give you one more chance. You can bring that with you — I’ll let you film the whole thing.”

After some more back-and-forth, Hewitt tells Thompson he is being placed under arrest, looks into the camera and says, “Watch the show, folks.”

Hewitt is then seen putting his arm around Thompson’s neck and wrestling Thompson out of the car as he cries out for help. The action that follows is captured only on audio, but Joshua Erlich, an attorney for Thompson, said his client was taken to the ground and pinned there, and his face was cut up.

Erlich said Thompson was placed under arrest for counts including misdemeanor obstruction of justice without force, a charge he pleaded guilty to in Fairfax County General District Court earlier this year, according to court records. Erlich said he has not filed a lawsuit on his client’s behalf to date and is hoping to resolve the case without legal action.

Thompson, 28, of Woodbridge, said in an interview that he would like to see Hewitt fired and charged for the incident.

“That was honestly the worst thing I’ve gone through in my life,” Thompson said. “It’s shocking. Reliving the moment through social media has been shaky.”

Hewitt could not immediately be reached through numbers listed under his name.

Thompson said the stop began when he was driving to work at the Cheesecake Factory in Tysons Corner. Erlich said no drugs or other contraband were found in Thompson’s car.

Herring’s office referred all questions to the Virginia State Police.

It their statement, police said there had been no prior complaints about the incident. Police said Hewitt has been placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation.

“At the end of the day, people are losing their lives over things like this, and that could have been me,” Thompson said.

Gregory S. Schneider and Alice Crites contributed to this report.

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