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Home  >  Topics  >  Patrol Issues

March 20, 2008
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S.C. troopers use cars to ram suspects

By The Associated Press

COLUMBIA, S.C. — Videos have surfaced showing two members of the South Carolina Highway Patrol using their cruisers to ram fleeing suspects, just weeks after two leaders of the agency resigned because of a furor over a trooper's use of a racial slur.


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In one of the two new dash-cam videos, which were first reported Wednesday by The Post and Courier of Charleston, Lance Cpl. Steven C. Garren drives after a man on foot, striking him when he crosses in front of Garren's cruiser. The man flips over the car's hood and into high grass on the roadside.

''Yeah, I hit him. I was trying to hit him,'' Garren, who is white, can be heard telling another trooper.

In the other, Lance Cpl. Alexander Richardson drives between apartment buildings, on sidewalks and past onlookers in an attempt to run down a suspect. After about a minute, Richardson's car bumps the man, who grabs the vehicle in an attempt to steady himself. The man doesn't fall and takes off running again.

Sid Gaulden, a spokesman for the Department of Public Safety, said neither trooper was available for comment. A message left at a number for an Alexander Richardson was not immediately returned. Garren did not have a listed phone number.

The videos depicted isolated events, and the troopers involved had been punished, Gaulden said.

Garren received a three-day suspension, which he has appealed. Richardson was reprimanded and completed a stress management course, disciplinary records show.

Geoffrey Alpert, a University of South Carolina criminal justice professor who consults with police on pursuit policies, said using cars as battering rams shows poor decision making.

''They're just lazy,'' Alpert said. ''Rather than get out of their car or get in a foot race, or tackle someone ... they'll just hit them with the car door, with the bumper, and hope they don't run them over.''

Alpert said he had never seen any training materials that advised authorities to use cruisers to hit suspects on foot.

The suspects in both of the new videos are black. One of the troopers involved is white, and the other is black, Gaulden said.

The Post and Courier's report about the videos comes three weeks after Highway Patrol Col. Russell Roark and his boss, Public Safety Director James Schweitzer, submitted their resignations over their handling of an incident in which a white trooper used racial slur during a traffic stop.

''You better run,'' then-Lance Cpl. Daniel C. Campbell said, using a derogatory term for blacks, ''because I'm fixin' to kill you.''

Campbell was reprimanded, suspended and ordered to undergo anger and diversity training. After Roark resigned, Campbell was reassigned to administrative duties. Gov. Mark Sanford said he should have been fired.

Schweitzer has said he would step down after his replacement is confirmed.

Associated Press writer Seanna Adcox in Columbia contributed to this report.






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