S.C. police officers face disciplinary action over use of force after video surfaces

Updated: May. 27, 2020 at 11:22 PM EDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - Three North Charleston police officers are facing disciplinary actions following an investigation involving the use of force during an encounter with a man which was captured on video.

The department announced the disciplinary actions Wednesday afternoon and said they involved encounters with a man identified as Joshua Lewis.

Local activists had demanded an investigation into an encounter involving Lewis and North Charleston police officers on May 9 at the Country Inn Suites hotel. Video of the incident was released, which community leaders said showed officers using “unnecessary use of force."

Civil rights organizations said the video showed officers slamming Lewis against a wall when they say he was already handcuffed and restrained. Authorities said Lewis was not arrested or charged for any incident.

North Charleston police said that they were responding to a shots fired incident and made contact with Lewis. According to police, Lewis was detained in handcuffs and forced against a wall.

“After a review of all available video and interviews with all the involved officers, it was determined that the officer acted inconsistently with departmental policy,” NCPD officials said in a statement.

The investigation also found that two other officers acted “inconsistently” with North Charleston Police Department policy.

Police say the actions of those two officers were discovered after an analysis of all the officers’ body camera videos and occurred outside of the view of the published video, which was recorded by another hotel guest.

Officials with the North Charleston Police Department said the officers who were found to have acted inconsistently with the department’s policy will not only face disciplinary actions but also mandatory enrollment into a a critical incident training program.

“Chief Burgess expects nothing but professionalism from our officers and when we make a mistake, we acknowledge the mistake and correct the deficiency,” police said in a statement.

The news about the officers comes on the same day the City of North Charleston is forming a committee to look at the current state of the police department and where to go from there.

A spokesman for the city said the decision to form the committee has nothing to do with any particular incident. He says the chief has been thinking about doing this for quite some time.

Local civil rights activists had renewed their calls for a racial bias audit of the police department after cell phone video surfaced showing officers throwing a handcuffed Joshua Lewis against a wall at a hotel. The city declined to have the audit done, saying it would be too narrow in scope.

Mayor Keith Summey said instead, a committee of five city council members will examine the culture of the police department.

Summey says the committee also wants to get a better understanding of the community’s perception and practices of the department.

The North Charleston Police Department released the following additional information on the investigation and the disciplinary action on the three officers:

The results of this investigation show the commitment of the North Charleston Police Department to provide a complete and transparent investigation into complaints and concerns from our citizens. We in law enforcement, because of our sworn responsibility to protect life and property, must be held accountable, either for actions or inactions. Chief Burgess has the utmost confidence in North Charleston Police officers to proactively address crime problems within our communities, while acting in accordance with the departmental policies and procedures and maintaining the highest ethical standards.

Last week, the police department released dashcam video from three encounters with Joshua Lewis over a two day period after local civil rights leaders called for an independent racial bias audit of the police department after seeing the video.

Dashcam video released by the department showed officers’ first encounter on May 7 with Lewis.Police say they pulled Lewis and his passenger over for a broken tag light.

Officers said they smelled marijuana in the car and that Lewis refused to come out of the car, so they pulled him out of it. His passenger is seen in the back seat of the cruiser cursing that they were stopped for the broken light.

Cops gave Lewis a ticket and let him go.

Two nights later, officers had a second encounter with Lewis. Police were responding to a shots heard call when they say Lewis and some friends ran into a room at a hotel. Bystanders on cell phones took video of officers picking up a handcuffed Lewis. Lewis and the others were not arrested.

Officers say they then saw Lewis take an object out of his car and then leave the hotel in a friend’s car. Cops with guns drawn ordered Lewis and the others out of the car. Officers say they found a loaded shotgun in the car.

In the dashcam video, the driver was told it’s not illegal to have the weapon. He said it wasn’t his and he didn’t know who it belonged to. According to an incident report, one of the passengers told officers the gun belonged to Lewis.

All of the men were released and took possession of the gun.

Copyright 2020 WCSC. All rights reserved.