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Man sues Charleston police, alleges false arrest, negligence, assault

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Fallout from a 2019 arrest that led to a Charleston police lieutenant's firing and an officer being suspended from law enforcement continued with a new development late last month — a lawsuit against the Charleston Police Department. 

The civil case, filed before the weekend on April 30, is centered on the July 1, 2019, arrest of Rashad Robinson and the subsequent investigation into the conduct of Kevin Schlieben, an officer who was caught on body camera hitting Robinson after he'd been handcuffed. 

It alleges negligence, false arrest and assault and battery, among other grievances. 

"I think Mr. Robinson didn't deserve what happened to him," Alex Apostolou, his attorney, told The Post and Courier. "(Police were) heavy-handed in every aspect of this. It should have been handled differently." 

The suit names Schlieben and Police Chief Luther Reynolds as defendants, in addition to the department as a whole. 

"The city can't comment on pending litigation, except to say that we look forward to defending this case in a court of law," said Susan Herdina, the city's attorney. 

According to a police account of the incident, officers responded to reports that a man was walking downtown and testing car door handles to see if they were unlocked. 

Officers tried to stop Robinson, who is Black, but police said he acted evasive and resisted when they tried to detain him. He broke away and led officers on a chase before he was eventually arrested. 

Body camera footage showed Schlieben, who is White, hit Robinson. Robinson was handcuffed at the time. 

The lawsuit challenges the police department's narrative, stating Robinson was walking to his job — which Apostolou said was in the food and beverage industry but the attorney did not recall which business his client was employed with at the time — and was passing through the "more affluent portions of the Charleston peninsula" when he was approached by two officers.

The lawmen tried to stop and interrogate Robinson, who continued walking to work and who "was under no obligation to engage in conversation or answer the questions of law enforcement," the suit claims.

Court documents state the department's incident and supplemental reports did not mention Schlieben hitting Robinson and the assault was discovered after a city employee reviewed the body camera footage and noted the assault.

Police previously said the footage was reviewed on the morning of July 2, 2019, and the officers were interviewed, per department protocol. 

Schlieben and Lt. Arthur Myers, his supervisor, were suspended with pay about a week later.

Myers was later fired in connection with the incident.

Schlieben remained on suspension until November 2019, when the State Law Enforcement Division charged him with third-degree assault and battery. He was later found not guilty on that count. 

Charges against Robinson stemming from the July 2019 arrest were dropped. 

Schlieben worked for a time in a civilian role for the police department, but has since left law enforcement and is now a Charleston firefighter, said Jack O'Toole, a city spokesman.

Reach Gregory Yee at 843-323-9175. Follow him on Twitter @GregoryYYee.

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