Attorney: Incident leading to North Charleston officer’s arrest was case of mistaken identity

Kenneth Ford

A North Charleston police officer accused of unlawfully detaining a man wrote in a report that he drove the 19-year-old to a “safer location” for an interview because too many people were complaining that the man was being wrongfully handcuffed.

Officer Kenneth Ford reported that he approached the man outside an apartment complex at 5230 W. Montague Ave. around 10:30 p.m. July 17. William Waddy, whose girlfriend lived at the complex, according to relatives, became “very confrontational” when Ford told him that he needed to be accompanied by a resident.

Citing his “aggressive nature,” Ford handcuffed Waddy. People started spilling from their apartments.

“A few subjects tried to inquire as to why Mr. Waddy was in handcuffs, and they also became aggressive,” Ford wrote. “I then decided to move Mr. Waddy to a safer location to conduct the field interview.”

Ford’s incident report, released Wednesday after requests by The Post and Courier, indicates how he initially justified his actions that would get him fired days later.

Waddy’s attorney, Christopher Mills of Columbia, said the abduction and assault of his client were unprovoked and stemmed from an incident in the neighborhood earlier that day, when Waddy was working at a local restaurant.

Ford returned, Mills said, and looked for someone related to the incident. That the officer singled out Waddy was a case of mistaken identity, he said. Waddy was removed from an apartment’s front porch, placed in a patrol cruiser and taken to a different location, where he was assaulted, the attorney said.

Mills, who specializes in civil-rights cases, said the actions were “classic kidnapping,” but that he is pleased that the officer will face a charge of misconduct in office, a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in prison.

His client will await the outcome of the criminal case before deciding whether to file a lawsuit.

Waddy has no arrest history in South Carolina, according to the State Law Enforcement Division.

“(Waddy) was confused and terrified about what was happening,” Mills said Wednesday, a day after the former officer was arrested and jailed for three hours. “Ultimately, he wasn’t permanently, physically harmed, and he’s content that the (complaint) process worked.”

An attempt to contact Ford Wednesday was not successful.

Agents for SLED, which conducted a two-month investigation into Waddy’s allegations, discussed the case with prosecutors to determine an appropriate charge. SLED spokeswoman Kathryn Richardson would not comment on whether the agency considered more serious counts.

Waddy’s attorney also questioned why an officer who followed Ford that evening didn’t do anything to stop the assault.

“Based on our investigation, which has included interviews with both officers and consultation with the Solicitor’s Office, this charge was filed,” Richardson said. “But the investigation is still ongoing.”

North Charleston Police Department spokesman Spencer Pryor would not say whether the second officer, who wasn’t identified, was reprimanded.

Also still unknown are the details about any incident earlier in the day that led to the confrontation between Ford and Waddy.

An arrest affidavit stated that Ford, who had been a police officer for more than three years, showed up at the two-story West Montague Avenue apartment complex and “unlawfully” detained Waddy. Waddy had been at work and “never saw what was going on earlier and wasn’t involved with it,” his attorney said.

“It kind of paralyzed him,” Mills said. “He didn’t know why they were taking him away.”

Ford drove him to a dark location 2 miles away, assaulted him and ruined his cellphone, authorities said.

Waddy was “slapped around,” Mills said, and didn’t need hospitalization. But the run-in, the attorney said, “shook his faith in law enforcement.”

Ford then sent a text message asking the officer who had been tailing him to lie, according to the affidavit. Waddy was told to find his way home more than two hours after the ordeal began.

In his report, Ford indicated that it lasted only 17 minutes.

“I drove to a safer location and I finished the interview,” Ford wrote. “The handcuffs were then removed from Mr. Waddy and he was released.”