A Charleston County sheriff’s deputy who celebrated after punching a surrendering suspect in a high-speed chase will be the focus of a state review.
Sheriff Al Cannon asked the State Law Enforcement Division to look into the chase and the deputy’s approach to detaining the driver, Maj. Jim Brady said Thursday. The probe will determine whether an investigation into possible law violations is warranted.
A video first published by The Post and Courier on Wednesday shows Deputy Cory Shelton running to the suspect’s car after it stopped May 28 in West Ashley. The driver, 52-year-old felon Peter Jenkins, raised his hands, but Shelton jabbed at the man through an open window.
The Sheriff’s Office also opened an internal review. The probe is a typical procedure after a pursuit to determine whether deputies could have acted differently, Brady said.
SLED spokeswoman Kathryn Richardson said she could not immediately confirm Thursday that Cannon’s request had been received.
At least one expert has said that Shelton’s quick confrontation of the suspect could have been dangerous. Policies for many law agencies, including the Sheriff’s Office, prescribe more caution.
But the approach mirrors one employed in January 2012, when a deputy ran up to Timothy McManus after a chase and started hitting him. Investigators cleared the deputy of wrongdoing because he thought McManus was reaching for a chisel stashed in the suspect’s truck.
Jenkins faces a count of failure to stop for blue lights, as well as a municipal charge of resisting arrest, North Charleston Police Department spokesman Spencer Pryor said Thursday. He has past convictions for resisting and assaulting police officers.
After the pursuit last week, Jenkins said to officers, “I didn’t want to go to jail,” according to the video.
Police tried to pull over his Kia that afternoon after an officer saw it traveling in a bicycle lane on Spruill Avenue. Officers ended the pursuit when the car left their jurisdiction.
But when the police spotted the Kia again in North Charleston, they resumed the chase and were more determined to stop the car because its driver was thought to be an attempted murder suspect.
They followed the car at high speeds into West Ashley. Sheriff’s cruisers and some cars from the Charleston Police Department got involved.
In his Chevrolet Tahoe — a vehicle typically assigned to K9 deputies like him — Shelton took over the chase on Sam Rittenberg Boulevard.
The video from his Chevrolet shows a North Charleston police car cut off the Kia near Wappoo Road. Shelton promptly got out, rounded his open door and ran straight for the suspect’s car.
Still behind the wheel, Jenkins raised his hands as North Charleston Patrolman Jason Dandridge pointed a gun at him. Jenkins lowered his arms briefly to unlatch his door, then raised them again.
That’s when Shelton ran up and punched at Jenkins. Shelton reported that his first jab missed, but subsequent ones connected.
After Shelton’s initial strikes, a dozen other deputies and police officers swarmed the car. One climbed into a back seat as others tugged on Jenkins. They pulled him to the ground.
They said he further resisted by holding his hands so that they couldn’t handcuff him. The video shows the lawmen back off briefly so that a police officer could fire a Taser into Jenkins’ back.
The authorities then managed to handcuff him.
The newspaper acquired Police Department and Sheriff’s Office videos of the incident through Freedom of Information Act requests.
A view from Dandridge’s cruiser, which was the leading North Charleston police car, shows Shelton charging the car and other officers grabbing at Jenkins’ legs and arms. But it stops before the suspect is hit with a Taser.
Footage from Deputy Adam Midgett’s vehicle depicts Shelton’s initial punch. But the camera was then knocked from its mount and pointed toward the dashboard of Midgett’s cruiser until the video ended 30 seconds later.
Brady, the sheriff’s spokesman, said the camera was jolted loose when Midgett threw tire-puncturing spikes into his cruiser as other deputies fought to handcuff the suspect.
Reach Andrew Knapp at 937-5414 or twitter.com/offlede.
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