CPD officer fired, charged with criminal domestic violence - wistv.com - Columbia, South Carolina

CPD officer fired, charged with criminal domestic violence, DUI

Gerald Atkinson (Source: Lexington County Detention Center) Gerald Atkinson (Source: Lexington County Detention Center)

A Columbia Police officer is out of a job and in jail after he allegedly assaulted his girlfriend and operated a motor vehicle while under the influence.

Interim Columbia Police Chief Ruben Santiago said 41-year-old Gerald Atkinson was released from his duties Tuesday.

The termination stems from allegations that Atkinson was involved in criminal domestic violence incidents in the City of Columbia and Lexington County. He is also accused of driving under the influence in Lexington County.

According to a Lexington County Sheriff's Department incident report, a Columbia Police Department sergeant notified deputies that Atkinson was involved in a domestic situation Friday night at a Lexington County home not far from the Lake Murray dam.

The sergeant said that while on the phone with Atkinson's girlfriend he heard what sounded like the officer hitting her. The incident was recorded on the sergeant's cell phone. He also advised deputies that Atkinson had been suspended earlier in the day because of an alleged domestic violence incident on July 4.

Deputies met at the Irmo Baptist Church and responded to the home.

As deputies approached the home, they saw a truck pull out of the driveway and drive away at a high rate of speed. After catching up with the truck, deputies stopped Atkinson at the Exxon station located at 6230 Bush River Road.

At the officers' request, Gerald Atkinson got out of the vehicle. Deputies observed a holstered gun in the driver's side door and an unopened mini-bottle of liquor, the report states.

Deputies said Atkinson stumbled while exiting the vehicle and had a hard time finding his driver's license in his wallet, according to the report. They also reported smelling an odor of alcohol coming from Atkinson.

According to the report, Atkinson asked deputies what the problem was and they told him that LCSD had received a report of domestic violence at his home.

Atkinson told deputies that his girlfriend of approximately a year and a half had gone to his home because she was upset over a text message she had seen.

Deputies told Atkinson that they suspected he was driving under the influence. Atkinson told them that he "had a couple of drinks" and had also taken "medication he was subscribed," the report states.

Atkinson then asked deputies "for a little bit of help," saying he was on their side and was law enforcement, according to the report.

A traffic unit deputy then conducted a field sobriety test and took Atkinson, who refused to provide a breath sample, into custody.

He was charged with criminal domestic violence and driving under the influence. Atkinson bonded out of the Lexington County Detention Center on Friday.

Prior to the Friday night incident, Atkinson had been placed on unpaid administrative leave after CPD received additional information regarding domestic violence allegations.

A friend of Atkinson contacted the sheriff's department to report that the former officer showed up to his house with marks all over his face. Atkinson allegedly showed the friend pictures of his girlfriend with bruises and a broken nose.

The unidentified friend told deputies that Atkinson said, "I am going to put one in her and then one in myself."

According to the report, Atkinson's girlfriend had been arrested and charged with criminal domestic violence in 2012. Atkinson "did everything he could to get the Solicitor to drop the charges," the friend told deputies.

An arrest warrant alleges Atkinson assaulted the woman in the morning hours of July 4. "The victim and defendant were engaged in a verbal altercation when the assault occurred," the warrant states.

Upon further review of the allegations and following an internal investigation at CPD, Chief Santiago requested SLED to investigate the incident.

On Monday, Atkinson has been charged with criminal domestic violence and arrested by the Lexington County Sheriff's Office and the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division.

He remains incarcerated.

"We as police officers are held to a higher standard in the public's eye," said Santiago. "We need to adhere to the laws that we are sworn to uphold. There are no excuses. The Columbia Police Department will only have outstanding officers serve citizens, and nothing less. These are serious allegations that have been brought to our attention."

Atkinson was assigned to the Columbia Police Department Investigations Unit.

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