MONCKS CORNER -- A Berkeley County sheriff's deputy is assigned to desk duty after he slapped and punched a handcuffed suspect who appeared to spit in his face inside the county jail intake area on Jan. 20.
A video released by the Sheriff's Office Thursday shows Thomas Howard Simmons Jr., 44, of Moncks Corner constantly talking at deputies inside the Hill-Finklea Detention Center while one hand is cuffed to a metal bench following his arrest on a disorderly conduct charge about 3 a.m.
The video, which does not include audio, shows Cpl. Robert Thomas as he leans down and talks to the suspect.
The conversation continues until Simmons leans over and appears to spit in the deputy's face.
Thomas slaps Simmons in the face with an open hand and then punches him in the back of the head before holding his head down while more deputies secure him and take him to a cell.
Berkeley County sheriff's Maj. Ricky Driggers said the jail captain brought the incident to his attention and that Simmons never filed a complaint against the deputy. Driggers referred the case to the department's internal affairs office to investigate whether the deputy violated department policy.
Simmons could face an additional charge for spitting at the deputy, Driggers said.
Thomas, who was the department's Uniform Patrol Deputy of the Year in 2004, is assigned to administrative duties pending the outcome of the internal affairs investigation.
Driggers said he will not speak about the deputy's actions until the investigation is complete.
He said the cameras inside the jail do not record audio but that according to the deputies present, Simmons repeatedly hurled insults at them while sitting on the bench.
Driggers said the deputy is undergoing a medical test as a result of being spit on.
Simmons has previous convictions for failure to stop for blue lights, criminal domestic violence, simple assault, public disorderly conduct, possession of crack cocaine and resisting arrest, according to a State Law Enforcement Division criminal history check.
Driggers opened Thomas' personnel file for The Post and Courier to review.
Thomas was originally hired as a correctional officer in October 2001, and completed South Carolina Justice Academy training in 2002. He was hired as a deputy in January 2004. He earned multiple awards in 2004 after he and two other deputies rescued two small children who fell into a pond in Macedonia.
Thomas was found not at fault after his cruiser struck and killed a 21-year-old man walking along U.S. Highway 17A near Moncks Corner in June 2007. The S.C. Highway Patrol investigated the accident.
He was promoted to corporal in 2008.
Simmons has been released on bail, Driggers said. Attempts to reach him by phone were unsuccessful.