COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - As we continue to gather more information on the SLED and FBI investigation into the Columbia Police Department, we're beginning to hear from fellow CPD officers who want to share their stories.
We're now hearing from a married CPD couple who say they believe they were targets in a conspiracy involving the city's top law enforcement officers.
Andre and Shannon Williams met with us Sunday with their attorneys present to explain how Capt. Dave Navarro's story about a plan to plant a stolen gun and cocaine inside a top city official's car is connected to them.
We asked the city for permission to interview the pair, but the city immediately denied that request, then approved it.
But according to their attorney, Jay Babb, the duo is remaining mostly silent out of fear.
"The short answer to that is the Williams are fearful for their jobs," said Babb. "They're still employed with the city of Columbia Police Department and despite being told that they could talk, because of what was alleged in the complaint and past retaliation against them, they're fearful for their jobs."
Andre and Shannon have worked for CPD collectively for more than 40 years. But three years ago when the city was considering a plan to have Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott take over the police force, Andre spoke out against that at a public hearing. That's when Andre says his troubles started.
"Could they have had animosity coming from that? Possible," said attorney Paul Porter. "I think if you look at the facts, the overwhelming treatment Mr. And Mrs. Williams received, you do see a concerted effort by the command staff at the city police department to target and disparage my clients."
Andre was demoted and accused of providing funeral escorts while on the clock. It was an accusation his attorney say CPD's internal affairs found wasn't true.
Shannon says when CPD couldn't take her husband out, they went after her. She was also investigated by internal affairs in an excessive force case. She was fired, then rehired after the city's grievance committee found the city had no grounds to fire her.
The Williams' attorney alleges Ruben Santiago, former Chief Randy Scott and CPD Deputy Chief Leslie Weiser were behind it all, "Ruben Santiago, the interim chief played a direct role, otherwise he would not be named in these lawsuits," said Porter.
Andre is over the city's west region, which is the area surrounding Harbison Boulevard. Former Capt. Dave Navarro said Santiago was sending him there to take over. Navarro said he was ready to go until he said Santiago told him why he really wanted him there.
"He says, 'You know what's over there in the West Region, don't you?' And I said, 'No, sir, I have no idea, I don't know anybody that's on that region.' He says, 'Andre Williams,' and I said, 'What about Andre Williams?' He says, 'I need you to help me conduct black ops on Andre Williams.' Those were his exact words," said Navarro.
Navarro said Santiago never gave him the details.
"At that point right there, I said, 'Chief, I thought you said this black ops thing was a Randy Scott thing' and he immediately went into the laughing and joking and at that point, I knew that basically the real, the main reason he wanted me to go to the West Region; it was to use me -- to try to use me to try to conduct corruption," said Navarro.
"I told him: I'm going to go speak to some people and I'm going to get an attorney."
Navarro said before meeting with Santiago, another high-ranking CPD officer told him they'd already conducted "black ops" on Andre.
"What kinds of things have you been doing? You have not compromised your integrity? He said, 'No, nothing like that. We've just been doing -- he actually mentioned to me that he's been doing black ops on Andre Williams," said Navarro.
The Williams' attorney said Navarro's story is consistent with their allegations. Porter said he's got a good idea why his clients were targeted, "To punish," said Porter. "To punish for speaking out, to punish for fighting charges for which they didn't deserve, for standing up for himself, for standing up for herself, for standing up for their livelihood."
As for Santiago, he released a statement late Monday afternoon.
"I have been apprised of the allegations concerning me, and I unequivocally deny them and any current or future allegation regarding this matter. Furthermore, this matter has been referred for investigation and there will be no additional comment," said Santiago.