COLUMBIA, S.C. – South Carolina's top cop said Tuesday that video footage of a now-fired deputy beating a handcuffed inmate with a baton hard enough to break the prisoner's leg is disturbing and raises questions about how force is used.
"You can't watch the video without having some serious concern for what went wrong there," State Law Enforcement Division Chief Reggie Lloyd said in a teleconference. "Obviously some very disturbing implications when you have law enforcement taking any physical action toward somebody who is restrained."
SLED and federal agents are investigating whether former Kershaw County deputy Oddie Tribble violated the inmate's civil rights by hitting him in the legs more than two dozen times. Tribble, who was fired after the beating Thursday, had been with the Kershaw County Sheriff's Department for 12 years. A phone number for an Oddie Tribble in Columbia had been disconnected.
Lloyd said investigators are interviewing a handful of officers who were at the jail and could see the beating and the eight or nine other prisoners in the van with 38-year-old Charles Shelley. Shelley, who was taken to a local hospital for treatment before being booked, was still being held at the jail Tuesday on a variety of traffic charges.
They include driving with a suspended license, having an open container of alcohol and possession of marijuana. The jail had no information about whether he has an attorney.
Shelly's most serious conviction was for first-degree burglary last year, according to his arrest record. He was sentenced to two years probation and restitution in that case.
Lloyd said the action or inaction of other officers at the jail is being looked at, too.
"You're looking at a broader issue than just the actual assault itself," Lloyd said. "Was there a duty on other personnel to render aid or protect a detainee?"
SLED and the FBI also are investigating possible civil rights violations in two cases last month. A Sumter police officer was arrested on a charge of assaulting a suspect during a traffic stop, and two Juvenile Justice correctional officers were arrested and accused of assaulting a juvenile in custody. All the officers were fired.