A federal grand jury has indicted a South Carolina sheriff and two deputies after federal investigators determined that they arrested a man, created a fake police report, destroyed the arrestee’s cell phone, held the victim in jail on false charges and blamed it all on another cop, all because they were upset that the man filmed them on his cell phone camera.
WBTW reports that Alex Underwood, the first black sheriff elected in Chester County S.C., was indicted on charges ranging from conspiracy to falsifying evidence, along with Chief Deputy Robert Sprouse and Lt. Johnny Neal Jr. Underwood, who has served in the position since 2013. Underwood was suspended from office less than an hour after the indictments were announced.
On Nov. 20, 2018, Underwood, Neal and Sprouse reportedly responded to a report of a man fleeing the scene of a car accident. When they arrived, a man who lived near the scene came out of his home and began recording the commotion on his cell phone and broadcasting it on Facebook Live. The indictment reportedly states that the man “did not enter the roadway or interfere with law enforcement activities.”
According to reports, Underwood repeatedly told the man, identified as “K.S.,” to go back to his porch. When K.S. retreated to his porch, Underwood reportedly lunged at K.S. and demanded his cell phone. Deputy Neal eventually helped Underwood restrain K.S. and, after handcuffing him, knocked KS to the ground, injuring him.
While K.S. was being taken to the detention center, the officers realized that the video had been published on Facebook Live. But K.S., didn’t have his phone. So, prosecutors say that Underwood told deputies to draw up a search warrant saying that one of the cops had lost a radio during the incident and that it might be inside the home of K.S.
The three officers entered the home, before the warrant was signed, to search for the phone. They found the phone and also instructed the called the detention center to place a three day “hold” on K.S.
After finding the phone, Sprouse delivered it to evidence. In January, the officers reportedly created a police report with fake details about K.S.’s arrest. The report said that K.S. left his yard, impeded officers and used profane language toward them.
K.S. identified lies in the report, and was backed up by his video evidence. The fact that his home was searched and his phone was seized without a warran added to the list of things the officers did wrong.
But the trio reportedly shifted the blame to the evidence officer, saying that he had taken the phone. The officers signed a disciplinary report against the officer for destroying or concealing evidence, causing the report to be sent to the FBI.
When the FBI got involved, the officers tried to lie their way out of trouble.
Underwood has reportedly been charged with deprivation of rights, tampering, falsifying records in a federal investigation and making false statements. Neal has been charged with deprivation of rights and falsifying records. Sprouse has been charged with tampering, falsifying records and making false statements. All three have been charged with criminal conspiracy.
Underwood faces more than 50 years in prison. In the last 10 years, 13 of South Carolina’s sheriffs have been indicted on criminal charges.