CPD: SLED investigating officers involved in Five Points arrest case

Jonathan McCoy (at left) questions the officers arresting Allen McAlister (striped shirt)
Jonathan McCoy (at left) questions the officers arresting Allen McAlister (striped shirt)
Jonathan McCoy in court
Jonathan McCoy in court

By Jody Barr - email

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - Columbia Police chief Tandy Carter confirmed Friday afternoon that he requested the State Law Enforcement Division to investigate allegations of misconduct against three of his officers. Carter said allowing SLED to investigate the incident would provide an objective look at the facts.

The allegations came after surveillance video shot outside Sharky's bar showed CPD officers James Heywood, Amanda Long and John Passmore's October 2009 arrest of two attorneys, Jonathan David McCoy and Allen Keith McAlister.

The attorneys claimed the video explicitly contradicts statements the officers wrote following the arrests.

At a hearing Friday, city prosecutor Constance Holloway asked a judge to delay the case for a second time, and to keep the incident report out of the evidence pool, and out of the jury's hands. Defense attorney Robert Goings and Joel Collins argued the report is a key piece of evidence the jury should see, "If this is an account of the incident, what happened, used to refresh these officer's recollection, it's clearly admissible to show impeachment, to show their recollection on the stand is not the same as the recollection as the date and time they entered this incident report," Goings argued.

"We believe this incident report was clearly falsified. We think there is a clear misrepresentation in it that our client grabbed the police officer by the arm and we want to show that jury that they falsified their incident report to try to justify having made this arrest," Collins said.

Holloway asked for the continuance because she told the judge Officer Heywood would be deployed on a military obligation during the trial date. The declined to delay the case and both sides are working on a video deposition to present to the jury.

At an April 1 hearing, the judge ordered Holloway to turn over personnel filed and all Internal Affairs investigations concerning the three officers. Holloway said Friday; the police department had not conducted an IA investigation in the McCoy case.  Holloway did turn over records of police dispatch logs, and personnel files on the officers.

An Internal Affairs investigation into the accusations against the officers came after WIS aired the video on Feb. 4, nearly four months after the arrests. Holloway told the judge last week, she had investigative reports on the officers, but "I don't see the Internal Affairs file in regards to this incident," Holloway said. Holloway did not say what complaint the internal affairs investigation she had possession of addressed.

The Oct. 17, 2009 arrests came after officers said they received a call from a bartender at Red Hot Tomatoes in Five Points about a man causing a disturbance. When police arrived, they found the man, McAllister more than 70 yards away in front of Sharky's.

Surveillance video shot outside Sharky's shows Columbia police officers James Heywood, Amanda Long and John Passmore walk up to McAlister and initiated an arrest.  As the officers approached, one officer immediately placed McAlister under arrest. But the three officers later wrote in a police report, "he needed to leave," and said they gave him "several chances to leave."

The officers reported that McAlister walked back to the bar twice before officers wrestled McAlister to the ground and arrested him.

Police went on to claim McAlister "snatched his arms away" and "started pushing the officers away," claims not shown on the video.

Attorneys claim McAlister was arrested for refusing to leave Red Hot Tomatoes, though the video shows he was already out of the bar when police arrived.

The video then shows McCoy walking up, questioning officers about the reasons for arresting his friend.
The officers wrote in their report that McCoy "grabbed an officer by the arm" and continued to intervene by "getting in [the reporting officer's] face." McCoy says he was simply asking the officers about McAlister's arrest details, bond hearing and Miranda rights.

In the video, officers shoved McCoy several times before placing him under arrest. The officers reported in detail that McCoy resisted arrest, allegations the video also disputes.

McCoy's federal suit claims he asked the officer why he himself was being arrested and Officer Passmore replied, "For asking questions." The suit said Passmore went on to say it was a crime to ask questions about McAlister's arrest.

In addition to his having his charges dropped, McCoy is also asking for compensation. He says he was traumatized by the ordeal that followed his arrest.

The officers didn't file the charges with the jail after the men were booked in, which caused them to miss two bond hearings and spend a night in jail. During that stay, McCoy witnessed his cell mate kill himself.

McCoy's cell mate had been booked on charges of assault and battery with intent to kill and driving under the influence, and was found hanged in his cell. Coroner Gary Watts ruled Olin Taylor's death a suicide.

A trial date is set for May.

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