Suit alleges Dorchester deputy assaulted teen
BY JOCELYN GRZESZCZAK, THE POST AND COURIER
A lawsuit filed against the Dorchester County Sheriff’s Office accused one of its deputies of unlawfully assaulting and arresting a 19-year-old man in April.
Charleston attorney Jerry Meehan filed suit Sept. 8 on behalf of his client, Jamel Floyd. The eight-page document named Dorchester Sheriff L.C. Knight and Deputy Brandon Smith as defendants.
The lawsuit contends Floyd was walking in his neighborhood when the deputy ordered him into a patrol car, which Floyd refused. It seeks at least $25,000 in damages and requests a full jury trial.
Separately, the State Law Enforcement Division confirmed it has an active investigation involving Smith regarding the incident, which took place April 16. No other information was available, spokesman Tommy Crosby said, as the investigation is ongoing.
The Dorchester County Sheriff’s Office will not comment on pending litigation, sheriff’s Lt. Rick Carson, a spokesman, said. Floyd, who is Black, was walking on English Road, west of U.S. Route 17 in unincorporated Dorchester County near Summerville when Smith, who is White, approached him, demanding Floyd get inside his patrol car, the lawsuit alleges. The teen refused, telling Smith he was “simply walking home,” according to the lawsuit. Smith then told Floyd he had “3 seconds” to comply and get in the car, the lawsuit alleges.
After Floyd again refused Smith’s request, Smith began shouting expletives at Floyd and moving closer to him. The officer then grabbed Floyd around his neck and “slammed him on the ground,” continuing to hold Floyd there for a “brief period of time,” the lawsuit alleged.
The officer “completely loses his temper,” said Meehan, Floyd’s lawyer, who said he and Floyd’s mother viewed Smith’s body camera and dash camera video. Smith “slams the car door, charges at Jamel, picks him up, body slams him,” Meehan described.
The Post and Courier has filed a public-records request under the state’s Freedom of Information Act for Smith’s employment records and the dash and body camera videos. The sheriff’s office had not responded, though it has 10 days to do so. In the incident, Floyd had his hands “flat up” and asked Smith to stop, the lawyer said. The deputy seemed to realize he lost his temper, Meehan said, because he ultimately told Floyd to leave the area. A sheriff’s office incident report contradicts some of what the lawsuit alleges.
Smith was dispatched to English Drive after a neighbor reported a “suspicious person in the roadway.” Smith found Floyd, who said he was walking through the neighborhood to get home.
Floyd, who has a “mental history,” his lawyer said, without providing details, regularly takes walks through his community. Every time he walks on English Road, some neighbors “harass him,” Smith wrote in the incident report, citing a statement from the teenager. A neighbor, who claimed she had a “no trespass” order against Floyd, told Smith she had found two sheets of paper on her property resembling song lyrics. Floyd said the papers were a song he had written, but his friend placed them on the neighbor’s property without Floyd knowing. The Post and Courier could find no court records filed against Floyd among Dorchester County Circuit Court records other than the pending civil lawsuit.
Smith told the woman he would give Floyd a ride home, and asked the teenager several times to get in the back of his patrol car. Floyd refused, so Smith told him to instead leave the area. Floyd “started cursing and causing a disturbance,” according to the incident report. “I told Mr. Floyd if he did not stop cursing, I would arrest him,” Smith wrote in the report. “Mr. Floyd stated I was not going to put my hands on him, and he was not going to jail.” Smith approached Floyd, directing him to put his hands behind his back. Floyd walked away, and Smith “grabbed him by his left arm.” Floyd began pushing away, and the officer grabbed him by his waist, picked him up and “assisted him to the ground, face down.” While detaining Floyd, Smith got up off the teenager and asked him to leave the area.
“I did not place handcuffs or arrest Mr. Floyd,” wrote Smith, whose body camera was on during the incident.
In addition to accusing Knight and Smith of unlawful assault and arrest, the lawsuit accused them for negligence and recklessness, as well as the intentional infliction of emotional distress on Floyd.