Video of the April 2019 incident on Interstate 495 in Fairfax County was shared widely on social media and gained national media attention. Thompson filmed the encounter with his cellphone.
“Although we can all agree that this officer’s demeanor does not conform to what our community would hope to see from law enforcement officers, our review is limited to issues of criminal liability,” Descano’s office said in a statement. “Bearing that in mind, this Office has determined that there is no basis for a criminal charge arising from this incident.”
Joshua Erlich, an attorney for Thompson, had previously sent a letter to Virginia Attorney General Mark R. Herring (D) claiming that Thompson’s constitutional rights had been violated during the stop. He called the lack of charges “disappointing.”
“We will reassess what our options are for moving forward,” Erlich said.
Hewitt did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but the state police superintendent, Col. Gary T. Settle, said the department was beginning an internal probe of the incident. Hewitt is on administrative leave.
“Even though criminal charges are not being brought forth in this incident, Trooper Hewitt’s conduct is still inexcusable and not reflective of our department, our personnel, or our standards of conduct,” Settle said in a statement.
Thompson was stopped April 20, 2019, for having an expired inspection decal, state police said. Another trooper said she smelled the odor of marijuana coming from Thompson’s car and wanted to search it, the state police said.
The video Thompson filmed begins with him sitting in the driver’s seat of his car, passively resisting Hewitt. At one point, Thompson tells Hewitt that his detention and a request for him to get out of his car are unlawful.
Hewitt leans toward Thompson and screams: “Take a look at me. I am a f---ing specimen right here, buddy. You have gotten on my last nerve, all right?”
Thompson 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 yells for help. The action that follows is captured only on audio, but Erlich said that his client was taken to the ground and pinned there, and that his face was cut.
“Although we join with many who find this interaction upsetting, the evidence that is available and that this office reviewed does not present a use of force that rises to the level of criminal liability,” said the statement from Descano’s office. “This was a lawful stop, a lawful request for an individual to exit a vehicle, and a lawful use of force to remove that individual from his vehicle. Although this officer could have used a more appropriate demeanor, his actions do not meet the burden of a criminal offense as it currently appears in the Code of Virginia.”
Thompson was placed under arrest for counts including misdemeanor obstruction of justice without force, which he pleaded guilty to in Fairfax County General District Court in 2019.
The video of the stop did not become public until Erlich tweeted it in July and sent Herring his letter. Erlich said they were awaiting the resolution of the criminal case before considering filing a civil suit.
Thompson said in July that he was left shaken by 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.”