Ten days after this news outlet exclusively reported on an alleged incident of police brutality involving two of his deputies, Florence County sheriff Kenney Boone said that an investigation conducted by his office concluded that his officers “did nothing wrong.”
Boone also resisted calls for an outside investigation into the matter – while claiming pictures and videos of the incident posted to social media provided a “limited” perspective on what happened.
On February 17, two Florence County deputies detained 34-year-old Tyler Fleming of Marion, S.C. in the parking lot of a convenience store – with one of the deputies wrestling him to the ground and restraining him in an apparent choke hold. At the time, Boone claimed Fleming refused to follow “reasonable verbal instructions” and “resisted officer’s attempts to properly detain him.”
Fleming was charged with breach of peace, resisting arrest, and threatening the life of public employees in connection with the incident.
“We asked our investigative division to open an investigation immediately that day,” Boone said in a statement. “Based on our review of the incident, I have determined our officers did nothing wrong. Our investigation reveals that the suspect in this case physically resisted the officer’s lawful attempts to arrest. And for the safety of the officers, was taken to the ground until further backup could arrive.”
Boone claimed his officers did not put Fleming in a “choke hold” and that a white male officer was merely holding his head up “off of the pavement to prevent injury.”
“There was no choke hold,” Boone said.
(Click to view)
That certainly looks like a chokehold to us …
“In addition to video, an audio shows that the suspect’s airway was not obstructed and he was able to yell profanities heard a considerable distance away while on the ground,” Boone’s statement continued. “When the suspect stood up, he was capable of standing and walking and did not request, nor was he in need of any medical attention whatsoever.”
Boone added that “the suspect continued to verbally threaten to kill the officers as he was taken into custody.”
That much is most certainly true. Video of the incident revealed Fleming making repeated verbal threats against the two arresting officers – including during the time he was taken down to the pavement. Fleming continued to issue these threats after multiple onlookers urged him to keep silent.
“After reviewing this horrific picture and video, the National Action Network decided we want to ask for those two officers’ resignation,” NAN state president James Johnson said in the aftermath of the incident. “We also want attempted murder charges put on those two officers for actually almost choking Mr. Fleming to death.”
Our view? Obviously, this news outlet has had an adversarial relationship with Boone in the past. Like many, we have legitimate questions as to competency. Also, we believe Boone made a serious lapse in judgment by not referring this matter to another law enforcement entity – one capable of conducting an impartial, independent investigation.
Having said all of that, we are not disputing the findings of the Florence County sheriff’s office regarding this matter (at least not at this point, anyway) – nor have we seen anything to suggest the two FCSO deputies involved in this incident deserved to lose their jobs or face charges for what transpired.
Could they have handled the situation better? Probably … but we do not believe Fleming’s life was ever in danger (as NAN and others have suggested), and based on the evidence that has been made public thus far we are willing to give the officers the benefit of the doubt as to the actions they took in the name of public safety.
Obviously we will continue to follow this situation, however … and would encourage Boone to allow an independent law enforcement agency to review his office’s findings along with any new evidence that may point to what precipitated the confrontation.
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