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SLED investigating Swansea Police Chief incident

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Published: Apr. 7, 2022 at 8:35 PM EDT|Updated: Apr. 8, 2022 at 10:13 AM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - The South Carolina Law Enforcement Division confirmed it is investigating an incident involving the Swansea police chief and a 78-year-old man with a prosthetic leg.

SLED said the investigation was requested by the Swansea Police Department and the Lexington County Sheriff’s Department.

Joe Phillips alleges in a citizen complaint that Chief Earl Williams III used excessive force during an arrest last week outside the Police Department, leaving him with a number of injuries. He has cuts and bruises on his arms, shoulders, and head.

Williams said this is a “frivolous accusation.” When the investigation is complete, he believes he’ll be found to have acted appropriately.

The complaint also accuses Williams of refusing to allow EMS to treat the complainant, damaging a prosthetic limb and dragging them out of a vehicle.

Phillips said he came to the police station with concern about another Swansea Police officer whom he saw speeding through town without lights or sirens.

When questioned about this, Phillips claims that Williams became angry and violent.

“I was sitting right in my truck, the window was down and I asked him, I said, ‘What was the fella speeding for?’” Phillips said. “He said, ‘He had bladder trouble.’ I told him that was a lie. And he told me, ‘You’re under arrest.’ I said, ‘No, you ain’t arrest me for this.’ So that’s when he got arrogant and arrested me.”

According to Phillips, he was arrested for disorderly conduct. WIS has requested a copy of the incident report pertaining to the matter.

Phillips claims that he then put his truck in reverse and backed up about 15 feet.

“He was on the side right there, he wasn’t in front of my truck,” Phillips said. “He claims I was trying to run over him. I wouldn’t know a way around to run over him, he was on the side of the truck.”

Phillips alleges Williams pulled him out of his truck and twisted his prosthetic leg during this interaction, making it hard for him to get up.

The complaint also accuses Williams of refusing to allow EMS to treat Phillips.

Phillips was later sent to Lexington Medical Center on Wednesday night, where he was given oxygen. He said a headache he suffered as a result of the incident still lingers.

WIS asked Phillips if he had any prior dealings with the officer whom he claims to have seen speeding.

“I don’t even know who was in the car,” he said. “I ain’t seen who. All I know is I’m a citizen of Swansea, lived there 78 years. And the white car with red writing on the side Swansea Police flying down the road, that don’t look good to me. But [Williams] told me if I have a problem to call him. That’s what I done.”

Williams said this is not how he polices, and believes that the investigation will show that Phillips’ claims are “vicious lies.”

“Well let the investigation go and see,” Phillips said when asked to respond to this characterization. “That’s what I’m waiting on. He jerked me out of my vehicle, skid me up and this is a vicious lie? I don’t see where’s the vicious lie because I’m telling you straight up.”

Williams also noted that as soon as he knew of the citizen complaint, he put himself on administrative leave and requested that SLED investigate the matter.

SLED did not immediately respond to a request for comment on whether they are reviewing body camera footage as part of this investigation.

Swansea Councilmember Doris Simmons said she and fellow Councilmember Mike Luongo have requested a special town meeting to discuss the incident with the mayor and the town attorney. The details of that meeting have not yet been finalized, she said.

See previous story for embedded complaint.

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