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Thursday, April 09, 2015


"I knew the cop didn't do the right thing."

by Tom Sullivan

When I heard the news on Tuesday night that a cop had shot and killed an unamrmed black man in South Carolina, and that it had been caught on video, my first thought was North Charleston. Parts are gritty. Working-class. Heavily African-American and Latino. The North Charleston department is not known for its subtlety or for its community policing.

The witness who shot the video came forward yesterday and appeared last night on MSNBC's "All In with Chris Hayes." Feidin Santana told MSNBC he was reluctant to come forward out of fear. He is still afraid:

"I felt that my life, with this information, might be in danger. I thought about erasing the video and just getting out of the community, you know Charleston, and living some place else," the 23-year-old said. "I knew the cop didn't do the right thing."

Santana told reporters that he had, in fact, gone to the police to inform them he had video of the shooting, but left before speaking to anyone in charge. Instead he ran out and got a lawyer.

The question no one seems to have asked the North Charleston Police Department is what they might have done with that video if they had gotten it from the witness and he had never released it to the press.

The State newspaper out of Columbia reports that over the last five years police in South Carolina have fired on 209 suspects. While a few were accused of doing so illegally, "none has being convicted," according to The State:

South Carolina has been in the news for a Highway Patrol officer’s shooting last September of an unarmed driver at a gas station after the officer stopped him for a seat-belt violation. But the vast majority of the suspects shot at in South Carolina during the past five years have been armed.

There's video of that gas station shooting here.

Jeff Stein provides more stories from North Charleston at Salon. Here's just one:

After going through the drive-through at a Kentucky Fried Chicken, Robert Wayne Bishop drove down Rivers Avenue in North Charleston before being pulled over. The officer told Bishop that “he was stopped randomly because he was driving through a high drug trafficking area,” according to federal court documents, and was ordered out of the vehicle.

Bishop was then pushed “face-first” onto the pavement, had the officer’s knees pushed into his neck and was dragged by his feet, according to records submitted by Bishop’s attorney.

“Another North Charleston Police Officer, Daniele, arrived on the scene with his canine and allowed the dog to ‘nip’ at Plaintiff, who sat in the road while handcuffed and bleeding from his nose and face,” the lawsuit states.

“As a result of the force … Plaintiff suffered a broken nose, a broken tooth, and a lacerated lip, all of which required surgery.”

The police officer had a different memory of the events, telling officials instead that Bishop had resisted arrest.

It has been a few years, but I have worked and stayed in North Charleston. Passing a shopping center on Rivers Avenue once, I watched as a couple of squad cars in the other lane emptied out, and all the officers immediately drew weapons on a black man standing in front of what might have been a liquor store. Never heard how that worked out.