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Photo by living_images via Getty Images

legalization | 01.01.2022

Traffic stop turns into a police shooting after officers smell marijuana

The driver was shot and wounded.

Video footage has been released of a police shooting in Florence, South Carolina on Saturday (March 24) after officers suspected a driver of being in possession of marijuana. Constable Christopher Bachochin is seen firing eight shots into the driver’s side of a silver Cadillac as the driver attempts to flee the scene.

The driver, whose identity has not been made public, was shot and wounded during the traffic stop but was released from the hospital on Monday, according to the Associated Press. Recordings from the dash cam and body cams of the two officers were released on Tuesday afternoon by order of the mayor’s office.

Footage from officers Knicoby Burgess and Edward Sieban shows the vehicle stopped in a driveway on Waverly Ave. at 11:10 p.m. on Saturday night.

Officer Sieban can be seen standing next to Constable Bachochin on the passenger side telling the driver he smelled marijuana after asking multiple times if there were any weapons in the vehicle. The driver responded by telling the officer there were no weapons or drugs.

“Is there any kind of drugs in the car?” Sieban is heard asking.

“No sir, please,” the driver responds.

“I can smell a little bit of weed,” Sieban says.

“My homeboy was in the car, so…” the driver says.

The officer then orders the driver to step out of the vehicle and the driver questions why that’s necessary, refusing to step out.

“Sir, I smell marijuana in the car,” the officer says, “I’m not trying to have no issues okay?”

“I’m not stepping out of my car right now, can you just run my information?” the driver says.

As the driver argues with the officer, Constable Bachochin is seen from the dash cam circling around the back of the car and onto the driver’s side. The driver then puts his car in reverse running into the empty police cruiser behind him, at which point Bachochin fires eight shots into the driver’s side of the vehicle as the driver flees the scene.

“Fucking about ran me over,” Bachochin who was standing next to the car is heard saying on the dash audio when Sieban asks if he’s ok. Officers later found the car abandoned near Marion and Harrell streets.

Florence Mayor Stephen Wukela said “the whole incident is troubled” after announcing that the footage would be released.

The State Law Enforcement Division is currently investigating the incident. Constable Bachochin was the only law enforcement official on the scene who fired on the vehicle. Constables, considered volunteer police in South Carolina, do not hold the same authority as normal law enforcement officers. Bachochin, who is a pharmacist, was riding along with the two officers as part of a certification course.

Officers who undergo the standard training course are taught not to fire on moving vehicles because of the risks associated with shooting at a moving target or injuring the driver while the vehicle is in motion and endangering bystanders.

A 2015 investigation by South Carolina’s Post and Courier looked into over 200 shooting incidents and found that one in four included officers firing on moving vehicles, prompting changes to state training standards.

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