SUMMERVILLE -- A former state employee is accused of punching a mentally challenged, vulnerable patient in the face at the Coastal Center in April, authorities said.

On Friday, State Law Enforcement Division agents charged Shedrick Martino, 18, of St. George with assault and battery. At the time of the incident, Martino worked for the S.C. Department of Disabilities and Special Needs as a caregiver at the Jamison Road facility, according to Jennifer Timmons, SLED public information officer.

Martino reportedly swung at the 26-year-old patient after the man spit on him during the April 28 incident, said Dr. Beverly Buscemi, director of the disability agency.

The victim was struck on the right side of his face but did not require medical treatment, authorities said. SLED launched an investigation after receiving a call on the state's Vulnerable Adult Hot-Line. Martino later provided a written statement to investigators implicating himself in the assault, an arrest affidavit stated.

Martino, who had worked at the center for four months, was placed on administrative leave immediately after the incident and was fired about a week later following an agency investigation, Buscemi said.

The Coastal Center is a state-operated, residential facility that serves about 175 people with mental retardation and developmental issues.

Reach Glenn Smith at 937-5556 or gsmith@postand