Mayor: Don't drop charges against SC NAACP chief - wistv.com - Columbia, South Carolina |

Mayor: Don't drop charges against SC NAACP chief

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Mayor Steve Benjamin Mayor Steve Benjamin
Lonnie Randolph Lonnie Randolph
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    Mayor Benjamin makes statement on Public Safety COLUMBIA, SC - Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin made the following statement today regarding issues surrounding the Columbia Police Department: As you know,More >>
COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) -

In a rather strongly-worded statement Wednesday afternoon, Columbia Mayor Stave Benjamin said he believes the charges against South Carolina NAACP chief Lonnie Randolph, Jr. should not be dropped before the case reaches the courtroom.

"Dr. Randolph appears to have a medical condition that influences his behavior beyond his control and, if so, he has my deepest concerns and sympathies," said Benjamin in a statement on public safety released to the media through the city's public information office. "But we must let the legal process unfold like it does for any other citizen. It is up to a judge or a jury, with the victims' input, to decide the end result, not politicians, police chiefs or administrators.

Benjamin also inferred it was a mistake for City Manager Teresa Wilson to show up at the dry cleaning business where minutes earlier Randolph allegedly refused to pay his bill or leave the business.

"Dr. Randolph's arrest demonstrated why we should not have administrators or elected officials showing up at crime scenes unless specifically requested by law enforcement," said Benjamin. "However well intentioned, it can send the wrong message and can create an appearance of impropriety and it needs to stop now."

The July 12 arrest and subsequent mutterings from the city that the charges would likely be dropped because of Randolph's pre-existing medical condition have created a bit of a divide among some.

Police charged Randolph with trespassing, disorderly conduct and resisting arrest after the confrontation at Tripp's Cleaners in Five Points. An employee called police, saying Randolph refused to pay his bill and would not to leave.

Officers say when they asked Randolph to leave, he again refused. That's when they attempted to put him in handcuffs, but they say he resisted and put up a struggle, trying to grab the cuffs.

Once he was in handcuffs, officers say he refused to get in the back of the patrol car and officers struck him in the knees and chest to get him in the cruiser.

Randolph was taken to a nearby hospital, but refused treatment.

The incident report shows Randolph was "field booked" and released with approval from Interim Police Chief Ruben Santiago. Santiago later said he believes dismissing the charges is the right thing to do in light of Randolph's struggle with diabetes.

At some point during the incident, City Manager Teresa Wilson was contacted.

"When I received the call and was briefed, I went to the scene based off the totality of the circumstances presented and also because of my personal knowledge of Dr. Randolph's medical condition. However, upon my arrival Dr. Randolph was no longer on the scene and had been transported to receive medical care," said Wilson in a statement.

Benjamin believes Wilson's presence at the scene may have sent the wrong message. "People must know that the criminal justice system works the same for all of us and does so without political interference and without special treatment for anyone," said Benjamin. "Justice for all requires special favors for none."

He plans to introduce a policy stating that the city's elected officials or administrators should not set foot near active crime scenes. "An active crime scene is no place for politicians or administrators," said Benjamin.

Randolph's attorney, Joe McCulloch, says he has no plans to pursue the dismissal of the charges prior to court and he's made no attempt to handle the case outside of the court room.

McCulloch says he has requested a hearing on Friday to file a motion for dismissal.

Benjamin will face Columbia City Councilman Moe Baddourah and Columbia businessman and former FBI analyst Larry Sypolt in the city's municipal election this fall.

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