COLUMBIA -- A Richland County grand jury has indicted two Columbia police officers accused of using excessive force against a University of South Carolina football player while arresting him in Five Points last winter.
Officers Roger Gilland and David Beddingfield Jr. face one count each of misconduct in office stemming from their arrest of USC Gamecocks offensive lineman Kevin Young on March 2, according to the indictments obtained by The State on Friday.
Fifth Circuit solicitor Barney Giese sought the indictments after reviewing the findings of a SLED investigation that lasted nearly three months and included interviews with Young and several witnesses.
If convicted, the officers face a maximum penalty of one year in prison and a $1,000 fine.
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Babs Lindsay, a spokesperson for the solicitor's office, said a bond hearing for Gilland and Beddingfield is scheduled for 11 a.m. Tuesday at the Richland County Courthouse. Lindsay said Giese does not comment on pending cases.
Columbia Police Chief Tandy Carter declined to comment Friday because he had not seen the indictments. Carter said Gilland and Beddingfield, who is a former state trooper, remain on active duty. Their lawyers expect them to be placed on leave.
The indictments state the officers used "excessive and/or unnecessary force" to arrest the 6-foot-5, 311-pound Young, then misrepresented the facts regarding the incident.
Young, a redshirt sophomore from Clearwater, Fla., claims officers punched him repeatedly and bloodied his nose while subduing him after an early-morning fight between Young and a West Columbia man outside a Five Points bar.
Young was not at practice Friday and was not available for comment.
Attempts to reach Gilland and Beddingfield were unsuccessful. Attorneys for the officers said their clients were doing their jobs and will be vindicated.
Leigh Leventis, who is representing Gilland, believes the indictments will have "a chilling effect on law enforcement in the Columbia area," perhaps making officers hesitant to intervene in fights or other "bad situations."
"It's a sad day when two police officers are indicted when they're breaking up a fight in Five Points with people who had been drinking," Leventis said. "They go break it up and they end up indicted. It's really unfortunate."
The 20-year-old Young originally was charged with fighting and resisting arrest. Police dropped the charges a few weeks after Neal Lourie, Young's attorney, filed a formal complaint with the city.
"I'm not surprised from the story I heard," USC coach Steve Spurrier said Friday. "But I really don't need to talk about it, I guess."
Lourie said he and Young plan to be at Tuesday's bond hearing. Lourie declined comment.
The treatment of USC athletes by authorities came under scrutiny last week when longtime USC trustee Eddie Floyd and Lourie said they believe campus police have targeted Gamecock players and overstepped their duties while investigating and making arrests involving athletes.
Though Young's arrest did not involve campus police, Mark Whitlark, Beddingfield's attorney, said Floyd's comments have created tension between law-enforcement agencies and USC athletes.
"These are good officers here; they're good men. They have impeccable records, and it's a shame this is happening," Whitlark said. "But I understand the atmosphere of this subject matter is pretty intense right now with the USC police (allegations)."
Added Whitlark: "Deserved or undeserved, it's been a subject that's been discussed a lot. These poor football players are being abused. But the Young fellow, I don't think he was even old enough to be in that (bar)."
According to the incident report, a bouncer at Sharky's on Harden Street alerted police to a fight between Young and James Hewitt, listed on the report as 6-foot-1 and 195 pounds. Young, who had been drinking, "actively resisted" when Gilland tried to arrest him, and it took two officers to put Young in handcuffs, the report stated.
"They say it's misconduct in office," Whitlark said, "and I'm going, like, 'What do they want them to do, have a sit-down meeting while they're trying to subdue a 6-5, 350-pound (man)?'"
Whitlark indicated there were inconsistencies in the witnesses' statements to SLED agents. He is concerned that the indictments came down two weeks before USC begins its season and hopes the situation is not a distraction to the Gamecocks.
"I'm a fan myself," Whitlark said. "But I'm not a fan of what's happening here."