Protesters call for Columbia Police officer to be fired over use of force

Protesters call for Columbia Police officer to be fired over use of force

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Protesters marched from the Richland County Library to Columbia Police Headquarters Thursday to demand a Columbia Police officer be fired.

Protesters say Officer Sean Rollins broke the department’s Use of Force Policy when he fired his bean bag gun during a protest in front of the State House on May 31.

An online petition, started by local photographer Aaron Smalls, specifically asks City Manager Teresa Wilson to dismiss Rollins from the police force. The petition also includes a video from the protest, which shows Rollins firing the bean bag gun at crowd members.

“In this time, we really need to come together and be more transparent and open and really try to find a real change versus trying to hide mistakes, while trying to make your department look spotless by parading protesters you’ve arrested without addressing the other side of the issues,” said Smalls.

Rollins is the same officer who shot Sir Brandon Legette in August 2019 in a Food Lion parking lot on Broad River Road. SLED and Fifth Circuit Solicitor Byron Gipson found Rollins acted in accordance with the law in that incident, but Legette has filed a lawsuit in that case.

Columbia Police Department’s Use of Force Policy states “Specialty impact less-lethal weapons may not be used for crowd dispersal, even if some members of the crowd are violent or disruptive.”

The Columbia Police Department released this statement in response:

“On May 31, 2020, Officer Sean Rollins’ use of a less-lethal specialty impact weapon was limited to one incident. During that incident at the intersection of Main and Gervais streets, one specific male repeatedly displayed sharp-edged weapons while aggressively approaching officers.

Officer Rollins deployed the less-lethal munitions (in this case, bean bags) at the suspect’s lower extremities and ceased when the individual retreated and the threat ended. Several people dispersed from the immediate area. Approximately an hour and a half later, the suspect was relocated and arrested for looting under a state of emergency and unlawful carrying of a weapon.

Officers found in his possession, a 10-inch fixed-blade knife and a pocket knife. CPD has additional arrest warrants pending against him for the same incident.”

CPD says this incident and others from May 30 and 31 are under review and that review will take some time.

“It’s been over a month, and there’s been no word on anything, but yet the protesters and people who actually were getting arrested at that time, they’re making speedy announcements when it deals with some of the protesters,” Smalls explained. “But when it deals with internal law enforcement, it’s silence. So, it’s more or less, to me, a lack of transparency.”

Under the city code, the city manager does have the power to dismiss any employee if she concludes that dismissal is good for the city, and she is not required to give any reason for the dismissal. We reached out to the city manager’s office and were told they do not comment on pending litigation.

There is no pending litigation against Rollins specifically, but there is a pending lawsuit against the Columbia Police Department, the Richland County Sheriff’s Department, and others that was filed more than two weeks ago by a Columbia man who says he was peacefully protesting downtown on May 31 when police shot him with tear gas and rubber bullets.

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