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Greenville deputy's bodycam footage shows handcuffed man's head slammed by car door

Deputy car door

A screen capture from a video showing a handcuffed man being removed from a Greenville County Sheriff's Office vehicle. Later in the video the man falls to the ground and the car door is closed on his head. Screen capture from bodycam footage posted on Facebook by Bruce Wilson

GREENVILLE — Body camera video circulating that shows a handcuffed man's head being slammed with a car door as he's being arrested by a Greenville County Sheriff deputy has prompted public calls for an investigation, but the agency said it has already determined the act wasn't intentional.

The video surrounds the April 2019 arrest of Stephon Hopkins and was distributed on Feb. 23 by Black Lives Matter activist Bruce Wilson, who has demanded the deputy be fired.

In the video, Hopkins is seen resisting Sgt. Jacob Walters as the deputy drags him from the back of the patrol car onto the pavement outside the Greenville County Detention Center. Hopkins shouts obscenities as he complains that the deputy used handcuffs as a weapon to punch him. 

Hopkins is then seen lying on the ground with his head partially resting on the door frame when the car door is slammed on his head. 

Sheriff's spokesman Sgt. Ryan Flood told The Post and Courier that a supervisor reviewed the arrest and determined that Walters didn't use excessive force. 

The review was done under what the agency calls a "response to aggression analysis," Flood said. Under the protocol, a commander reviews the arrest. The process isn't the same as a formal complaint from a citizen.

For there to be a formal internal affairs investigation, Sheriff's Office policy requires a complaint to be filed by the person who has an objection, whether in-person or by phone. The complaint can't be logged by a third party, he said.

Hopkins hadn't filed a complaint in the time since the April 22, 2019, arrest, Flood said.

“I understand if people feel whichever way they feel," Flood told The Post and Courier, "but it’s our determination — as of right now without conducting any internal investigation because the guy has not come to speak with us — that the incident was not intentional.”

On Feb. 23, Wilson made public a notarized letter in which Hopkins asks for an investigation into the conduct of Walters and another deputy.

In a letter a week earlier to Sheriff Hobart Lewis, Wilson demanded Walters be fired.

“You can tell looking at that video that it was intentional," Wilson told The Post and Courier. "There was ongoing aggression. Just look at Mr. Hopkins’ face."

Wilson said that Hopkins hasn't filed a complaint himself because he didn't want to go in person and face intimidation. Wilson said that he might have Hopkins call, but he said that a formal complaint shouldn't have to be filed.

"It would be different if this was he said, she said, but this is evidence on camera," Wilson said.

Follow Eric on Twitter at @cericconnor.

Reporter/Local Editor

Eric is a reporter for The Post and Courier's statewide politics team and serves as local editor for its Greenville newsroom. Previously with The Greenville News, he's covered the Upstate for two decades and served as a USA TODAY correspondent. He studied journalism at the University of South Carolina.

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