Physical altercation between SC State reps under investigation by the sheriff's department

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - An alleged physical altercation that happened between two South Carolina state representatives earlier this year is under investigation by the Richland County Sheriff's Department.

Sheriff Leon Lott confirmed that his department is investigating the May 11, 2017, incident between Representatives Gilda Cobb-Hunter (D- Orangeburg) and Jerry Govan (D-Orangeburg) under the charge of assault. The investigation is being coordinated with the state solicitor's office.

Cobb-Hunter filed a report with the sheriff's department on October 11 - five months after the incident occurred.

Both Cobb-Hunter and Govan agree the altercation began as a verbal argument over a contentious bill to consolidate Orangeburg County school districts. They say it happened in the narrow hallway between the House chamber and a meeting room.

When she recounted the incident, Cobb-Hunter said her arm was extended toward Govan, hand meant to keep personal space between them.

"He walks into my hand, grabs my wrist, twists it around, and pushed me back. Like that," Cobb-Hunter said at the time. "I'm leaning back just literally like I'm doing." Cobb-Hunter acted out her version of what happened for reporter Ashleigh Holland. "And in my mind, I was like this guy is still coming toward me. And I'm like 'Woah.'"

Cobb-Hunter said she went to the State House nurses, who realized her arm was swollen and gave her an ice pack.

But Govan's story is different, saying "there are two sides to every token."

"We were in a very narrow, confined space. I did confront her in terms of some things that were said," Govan said.

A letter sent to the two explained that House Speaker Jay Lucas's investigation finds there's not enough evidence from witnesses one way or another to warrant more than a stern written letter.

Govan said he would let the Speaker's letter speak for itself; he agreed there was "mutual contact" between himself and Cobb-Hunter, but disagreed with the letter as it states that "Govan bears a higher level of responsibility to have avoided this incident, having been the initial aggressor."

Govan said he issued an apology and hopes to move forward beyond the incident, calling it a distraction to real work on issues.

Cobb-Hunter is offended at the letter and the investigation's conclusion. She is hoping for more consequences on Govan, and that the matter can go to the ethics committee.

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