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Letter: SCDOT Employee Attacked An Elderly Veteran

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(The letter below was submitted this week to S.C. Department of Transportation director Christy Hall, Richland County, S.C. Sheriff Leon Lott and S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control director Catherine Heigel).

Director Hall, Sheriff Leon Lott, Director Heigel,

On March 9, 2016 my 88-year-old father – an Army and Air Force Veteran – and I were physically attacked and assaulted while entering our property located on Windsor Lake Boulevard in Richland County by a man claiming to be a S.C. Department of Transportation (SCDOT) employee.  This attack has been covered up by two Richland County deputies.

A little after 4:00 p.m. (EST) on March 9, 2016 my father and I arrived at our property which is the lake and dam on Windsor Lake Boulevard.  As soon as we parked and got out of the car, a white male about six feet tall dressed in a striped shirt and tan khaki pants came from across the street, 9178 Windsor Lake Boulevard, and began yelling and screaming at us that we were trespassing.  I explained to him over and over we were the property owners and to leave us alone and that he was more than welcome to call the police.

As his yelling and threats became more intense, I pleaded with him to leave, and to leave us alone.  He stated several times he was with the SCDOT and could stand wherever he wanted.  I once again asked him to leave us alone and to call the police.  As we headed further down the embankment to add an additional lock to the chain blocking the access point to our dam, he followed us down the embankment still screaming and threatening us.  When he stepped onto our property at the chain and posts on our dam, I asked him to leave and call the police.

He refused to leave our property and it was at this point he knocked my 88-year-old father to the ground into a patch of briars. My father’s head almost hit one of the concrete filled steel posts for the chain. As my father was trying to get up he shoved my father into me with such force it pushed both of us into the chain and my father fell to the ground again.  After regaining my balance I drew my concealed weapon and relied on my concealed weapon permit training to stop this vicious attack.  Once he backed away from us I holstered my weapon and took several pictures of him blocking our only exit to our vehicle while he was still screaming and pointing at us, before I called 911. I have included two of these pictures …

I called 911 at 4:29 p.m. (EST) asking for help and assistance.  At approximately 4:43 p.m. a Richland County deputy arrived and went to the attacker’s home.  It was almost ten minutes before this deputy came to check on me and my father.  After I handed my driver’s license and concealed weapon permits to the deputy, he took my weapon out of my holster, unloaded it and put it in the glove compartment of my car.  This deputy had absolutely no reason to disarm me or enter my vehicle, especially without my permission.

This deputy went back to the attacker’s house and a second Richland County deputy also drove up to the attacker’s house.  After several more minutes both deputies came back to where we were.  We explained in great detail what happened and showed them our injuries.  The first deputy said that I would spend five years in jail if we wanted to press charges for the assault and the man who attacked us would only get thirty days.

This deputy repeatedly threatened me with an unlawful arrest and at one point while he was standing in front of me the other deputy stood directly behind me.  I felt very threatened by their actions and the first deputy’s tone.  The second deputy would not even make eye contact and seemed uncomfortable with how the first deputy was acting.  These deputies did not take pictures of our injuries or the blood on the ground where the attack happened.  As far as we know this attack was not documented.  The first deputy stated several times that he could assure us that the attacker would leave us alone.  I knew at this point these deputies were protecting him and we needed to leave so I could take care of my father’s injuries.  I also know that a Richland County deputy lives either next door or one house over from the man who attacked us.

Because of the trauma from this incident my father will not return to his property.  Rather than making the improvements to the dam outlined by an engineer per the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control (SCDHEC) guidelines my father is contemplating draining the 32-acre lake. The contractor we hired will need police protection while working.

It will take my father weeks if not months to recover from this attack. This has been one of the most shocking experiences of my life, I wasn’t able to sleep for four days, and the way we were treated by the Richland County deputies was equally as shocking and disappointing.

Sincerely,

Howard Townsend
Columbia, S.C.

SIC SEZ

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Howard: Wow … thank you for sharing this letter.  FITS is going to do some digging to see what additional information we can uncover about this situation – including the perspective of the as-yet-unidentified SCDOT employee.  In the meantime, I hope you – and especially your father – are able to recover from your injuries.

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