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Two Columbia officers released on bond

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COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - Two Columbia police officers have been released after being accused of using excessive force in a University of South Carolina football player's arrest earlier this year.

The $25,000 personal recognizance bonds set for David Beddingfield Jr. and Roger Gilland on Tuesday did not require them to post any money.

Beddingfield and Gilland were suspended after being indicted last week on a charge of misconduct in office.

The two were in court Tuesday morning to answer the charges. Defense Attorney Mark Whitlark built up the officers' records.

"Officer Beddingfield does have a record. He has a record of service to the state and the community as a law enforcement for the past seven or eight years," Whitlark said.

Witnesses aren't sure which officer was actually doing the beating.

"Two of the witnesses said Gilland had done the punching. Two of the witnesses said Beddingfield," Deputy Solicitor John Meadors said.

Police Chief Tandy Carter said the suspensions are a standard procedure and the department supports the officers.

Offensive lineman Kevin Young was arrested in March 2007. Young claims the officers punched him several times after he was in a fight at Sharky's in Five Points.

Kevin McCrarey, a local sports broadcaster, says he saw the officers beating Young.

"There's no doubt in my mind that this guy was using excessive force -- none," McCrarey said.

It was an incident he didn't even want to see.

"There was an officer that was repeatedly punching a guy closed fist. Punching what turned out to be Kevin Young  and I watched this -- really in horror," McCrarey said.

Police had been called to the bar to break up a fight between Young and another man. Young was arrested on charges of fighting and resisting arrest.

Scott Linaberry is the owner of Sharky's and he says he's worried about how the case will affect safety in his bar.

"To tell you the truth--I'm a little scared that they won't use as much force as is necessary to resolve some of these situations down here. They have a tough job. They don't know if you're carrying a weapon. What's excessive force to us may not be excessive to them because they have their life on the line everyday. We're just not used this," Linaberry said.

Police dropped the charges against Young a few weeks later.

Gilland attorney Leigh Leventis says police sometimes dismiss charges after further investigation of the circumstances.

"There's been a lot of talk about you know, picking on athletes. Law enforcement communities doing so. In this particular situation, it's a darned if you do, darned if you don't. If you arrest an athlete, you're picking on athletes. If you drop the charges on an athlete, you're dropping the charges to cover something up," Leventis said.

Later, Leventis continued to defend the officers, saying they were just trying to do their jobs and noting that Young had been inside the bar with a fake ID.

"Does Neal Lourie or the people that say football players get picked on, do they want selective prosecution of the law? Do they think football players should be immune from it? I don't know, maybe that's what they're looking for," Leventis said.

The indictments say the officers did "act in a manor that is corrupt and are fraudulent and are oppressive."

Each officer faces a count of misconduct in office according to the indictments. The counts stem from a SLED investigation that lasted almost three months.

Carter says Gilland was accused of excessive force in another incident, but he was later cleared of that charge.

Investigatory suspension, as defined by the city employee handbook, is not a disciplinary action. The suspensions could be terminated once the charges are resolved. If the officers are found not guilty and reinstated, they can apply for the pay and benefits they lost. But if they are found guilty, Gilland and Beddingfield face fines up to a $1,000 and up to a year in jail.

Lawyers for Beddingfield and Gilland have denied the charges. They are also asking for the trial to occur immediately. No trial date has been set.

Reported by Jack Kuenzie and Trey Paul

Posted by Jeremy Turnage

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