Video: Town defends SC chief after dash cam shows 'aggressive' arrest
The chief is at the center of a State Law Enforcement Division investigation into use of force that began after a midday high-speed police chase and arrest of a suspect in a stolen car
By Jonathan McFadden and Anna Douglas
YORK, S.C. — A video obtained by The Herald raises questions about whether York Police Chief Andy Robinson stepped on a handcuffed suspect lying on the ground after an April 4 police chase.
Robinson is at the center of a State Law Enforcement Division investigation into use of force that began after a midday high-speed police chase and arrest of a suspect in a stolen car. The car was stolen from the BP gas station and China Garden eatery in York.
York Mayor Eddie Lee, who viewed the video obtained by The Herald on Saturday afternoon, said it appears that Robinson stepped on the accused car thief while the suspect was was on the ground and surrounded by other officers. Police have charged Jacob Floyd Bailey, 29, of Marietta, S.C., with grand larceny, reckless driving and other crimes, according to law enforcement records.
The video, from a police car dashboard camera, shows Robinson approaching Bailey after other officers removed Bailey from the car. About 10 seconds later, Robinson raises his right leg and shifts his body weight forward. Robinson then plants his right foot and then moves backward. Bailey, while still on the ground, moves slightly.
The dashboard camera footage does not clearly show what Robinson stepped on because the view is blocked byan officer who is kneeling beside Bailey during the arrest.
Robinson could not be reached for comment on Saturday. City Manager Charles Helms declined to comment.
The video of the April 4 chase and arrest shows that Robinson was driving a black sports utility vehicle, which toward the end of the chase was the second lead car in pursuit of Bailey. The chase ends in a driveway on Park Place Road, just outside the city limits of York.
Once Bailey stopped the car he was driving, two plainclothes officers exited their vehicles with guns drawn and moved toward Bailey. The video does not show Robinson with his gun drawn.
Robinson parked his SUV beside the suspect's vehicle. He got out the car as the other two officers told Bailey to get out of the stolen Buick. A third officer helped remove Bailey from the car. Robinson ran toward Bailey, who was lying on his stomach.
After Bailey was handcuffed and surrounded by three officers kneeling on the ground, the video shows that Robinson raised his foot toward Bailey. Robinson appeared to use the stolen car's door for support as he moved forward.
The video shows five officers at the scene with Robinson. Other officers ran toward Bailey and the officers seconds later.
After nearly 10 officers arrive at the scene and Bailey is picked up off the ground, Robinson walked away and out of view of the video. From when he parked his SUV next to the stolen car until he walked away, Robinson spent about one minute near Bailey.
Officers patted Bailey down and can be heard in the video discussing the chase for nearly 10 minutes after his arrest.
Authorities took Bailey to jail, where he spent one night before being released on bond. SLED records show that Bailey has prior convictions for driving under suspension, unlawful carrying of a weapon and receiving stolen goods. He is awaiting trial on an October 2013 attempted murder charge in Greenville County, court records show.
In November 2012, Bailey was placed on probation in which he was to perform community service. Probation officials on Friday said they planned to issue warrants on Bailey that will charge him with a probation violation. It was unclear Saturday evening whether he'd been taken into custody.
Mayor calls for review of leadership
The April 4 police chase, arrest and subsequent SLED investigation have been the "talk of the town" in York, Lee said.
Once SLED completes its investigation, the case file will be handed over to the 16th Circuit Solicitor's Office, which will decide if criminal charges should be filed against Robinson or anyone else.
Residents have questions, Lee said, and have called and visited him to ask why Robinson has not been placed on administrative leave pending the investigation's outcome.
By local law, Robinson reports to the city manager, not the York City Council or mayor.
Helms, the city manager, showed video of the arrest to Lee and other council members on Friday. The Herald on Saturday attempted to invite all city council members to view the video it obtained. Only the mayor could be contacted.
Lee confirmed that video footage of the arrest obtained by The Herald matched what Helms showed on Friday. But Lee said the video Helms showed was about half as long, had no audio and was harder to see. On Friday, Lee was shown a video nearly 8 minutes long that did not include the police chase or Bailey's near collision with at least one car, the mayor said.
The video obtained by The Herald lasts 22 minutes and 43 seconds and includes footage of the chase and arrest. The Herald has filed requests under the state's Freedom of Information Act for dash camera videos from all cars involved in the chase and arrest.
"I am troubled by the fact that there was no audio on the version that was shown to council (on Friday)," Lee said. "The near collisions were not evident in the version I saw (on Friday)."
After watching more footage on Saturday, Lee said the incident spurs concerns for him about excessive force by police, the speeds reached during the chase and York police officers' pursuit of Bailey outside the city.
"We have law enforcement needs in our city," he said. "I expect our law enforcement officers to protect the people who live in the city."
Lee, who called for full transparency on the April 4 incident earlier this week, said on Saturday that more information needs to be shared regarding what led to the SLED investigation.
"There needs to be an immediate review of the leadership of the York Police Department and a careful evaluation of the city administration's handling of this matter," he said. "The public deserves transparency."
Copyright 2014 The Herald