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Attorneys, activists allege excessive force by North Charleston police

By Steve Garrison, The Post and Courier

A 42-year-old man is suing the city on allegations a police officer used excessive force by tackling him during a traffic stop last month, causing severe injuries.

Brian Mickelsen, an attorney for Darian Meggett, said in an Aug. 3 news conference that a North Charleston police officer stopped his client’s vehicle the evening of July 1 for crossing the center line.

Meggett pulled to the side of the road within 10 seconds of the officer activating his emergency lights, Mickelsen said. He was standing about 5 yards from his vehicle with his hands in the air when the officer tackled him to the ground and then slammed him on the hood of a car, the attorney said.

Mickelsen said his client suffered “horrific” injuries from the encounter, requiring surgery and the insertion of two rods into his body.

“What happened to Mr. Meggett on July 1, 2021, was completely unjustified,” he said. “It was excessive, and it was reckless, and extremely disappointing.”

Mickelsen said he has obtained video footage of the arrest, which supports the allegations contained in the lawsuit, but he declined to release it. Meggett attended the conference in a wheelchair, but his attorney said he would not be speaking publicly about the allegations. An incident report from the arrest alleges Meggett “nearly hit” officer Christopher Brasseaux with his vehicle while driving on Lacross Road. The officer caught up to Meggett’s vehicle and activated his emergencylights,causingMeggettto stop near 2539 Taylor St.

Brasseaux alleges in the incident report that Meggett attempted to flee on foot, but he was apprehended. When detained, the report alleges, Meggett tossed a plastic bag containing suspected marijuana on the ground.

Several grams of a white powdery substance found in Meggett’s vehicle tested presumptive positive in a field test for cocaine, the report states. The incident report alleges Meggett was initially transported to Trident Medical Center, but he refused treatment. Charleston County jail staff said he needed to be medically cleared before booking, so he was taken to St. Francis Hospital and, finally, Medical University Hospital, where he agreed to be seen for treatment, the incident report alleges.

North Charleston Police Chief Reggie Burgess did not respond to a request for comment for this article about the lawsuit or news conference. But in a video posted on the department’s Facebook page, he acknowledged the news conference had taken place that morning, but did not directly comment about it or the lawsuit. Rather, he said in the video, “Civil rights leaders reached out to our police department in July inquiring about the arrest” and added they were invited to visit the department to view bodyworn camera video of Meggett’s arrest. Then, a portion of that video is shown with no commentary by the chief.

Members of The Racial Justice Network, a civil rights organization, also attended the news conference.

James Johnson, president of the organization, said Meggett called him July 3 from his hospital bed about the allegations. Johnson said he called Burgess to review the video.

“I was a little shocked by the video because we didn’t see any resistance from Mr. Meggett, resisting arrest at all,” Johnson said. “Mr. Meggett stood right there and did nothing.”

Johnson said the officer also twisted Meggett’s arm during the arrest.

Edward Bryant III, president of the North Charleston branch of the NAACP, pointed out that the preliminary report from a racial bias audit of the North Charleston Police Department was released only a couple weeks ago.

“Obviously, it doesn’t make any difference whether they are under investigation, their own investigation, or what they are doing,” Bryant said. “It seems as though minority members are secondarily treated in the city of North Charleston.”

The city of North Charleston and Brasseaux are named as defendants in the lawsuit, which seeks unspecified damages.

Meggettfiledaseparatelawsuit in May against the Charleston County Sheriff’s Office and the NorthCharlestonPoliceDepartment, alleging he was injured while being helped into a transport vehicle to be taken to the Charleston County jail in 2019.

In that lawsuit, Meggett claims he asked for assistance from officers to enter the waiting van on May 24, 2019, because of an injured knee. The officers assisted him up the first couple of steps to the van, but on the third step allowed him to fall, the complaint states. Meggett hit the van door before falling to the concrete and causing an injury, according to the complaint.