Kershaw Co. inmate takes stand: ‘Thank God I don’t remember the beating.’

Beating victim: Charles Shelley
Beating victim: Charles Shelley

By Jody Barr - bio | email

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS)- The man on the receiving end of a Kershaw County deputy's police baton last August took the stand Friday to testify about the 27 blows that broke his right leg. Charles Shelley told the jury, "All I can recall is the first seconds, but after that, it's kind of a big blur."

"I was just trying to back away. I had no way to defend myself, no way to deflect the licks," Shelley testified. "I saw the video, but I do not remember the incident." Shelley endured a two-minute long beating on August 5, 2010 at the hands of the accused, former Kershaw County Sheriff's Sergeant Oddie Tribble. The beating came after Tribble and fellow deputy Jimmy Simmons, Jr. pulled into the county detention center to unload 10 detainees from a road block.

Tribble said Shelley threatened him and his family, resisted arrest, and refused to comply with the officer's commands, which resulted in the beating. Tribble told investigators that he only remembered hitting the handcuffed inmate "a couple of times." The jail house security video showed Tribble landing a total of 27 strikes to Shelley's legs with his steel police baton.

Shelley admitted to the jury that, "I was loud, very disrespectful," toward Tribble on the way to the jail. Shelley was arrested in a license checkpoint in Camden and charged with driving under suspension, marijuana possession, and open container. Shelley said he became "upset" after Tribble loaded him into the transport van and asked Tribble to retrieve his asthma inhaler from his car. Shelley said the van was very hot inside and had a "foul odor," which he said set off his asthma.

Shelley told the jury that Tribble ignored his request at first then told him, "to shut the [expletive] up."

"I didn't understand…I kicked the window to get the attention of the other officers, to try to get aid from someone else." On the ride from the road block to the jail, "I said things to him, he said things to me," Shelley continued, "I told him when I get out of jail, I should go find your mama and slap the [expletive] for having him."

"I kind of lost control of my mouth," Shelley said.

Once inside the Kershaw County Detention Center's sally port, Shelley said Tribble told him to get out of the van, which he did with his hands cuffed behind his back. "He told me to get the [expletive] out," Shelley said. "I got out as quickly as I could. I took a step, he blocked my path, and I looked at him and said, 'what?'"

"He commenced to assaulting me…I was just trying to back away. I had no way to defend myself, no way to deflect the licks," Shelley testified.

Prosecutors brought in an expert on "use of force" techniques to give the jury an opinion on whether Tribble's actions were justified. South Carolina Criminal Justice Academy instructor Bruce Hancock told the jury that he's trained around 50,000 South Carolina police officers in the correct way to use force. Hancock, who studied the tape and prosecutor's case files against Tribble, told the jury, "an officer has to de-escalate."

"You reduce force as the threat level is reduced," Hancock said. According to Hancock, officers are trained to deal with handcuffed inmates and only use "pressure points" to cause "minimum pain" to have a handcuffed inmate comply with an officer's orders.

"If he has cuffs on, you don't strike him. Period," Hancock told the jury. Prosecutors played a portion of the jail house video of Shelley's beating for Hancock, "I don't see the resistance. I see defensive moves and posturing," Hancock told the jury. The expert testified that he saw Shelley complying from the time he stepped off the transport van. Prosecutors asked Hancock if Shelley's threats would have justified the beating, "They have to have tough skin," Hancock said. "If that were the case, we'd be beating up everybody."

Prosecutors plan to rest their case by Monday afternoon. Tribble's defense plans to take a full day to explain their side to the jury, and they plan to call Tribble to the stand, as well as Jimmy Simmons.

If convicted, Tribble faces a maximum of 10 years in prison.

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