Mayor names 9 to review police practices

From Staff ReportsJuly 18, 2013 

There in support of the family, Mayor Steve Benjamin speaks to Hunnewell's nine-year-old son Victor, while victim's advocate Nataki Brown, updates the family outside of the courtroom. Lorenzo Young, Troy Stevenson and an unnamed juvenile, all accused of killing 33-year-old Kelly Hunnewell, waved their right to a bond hearing through their attorneys Thursday at the Richland County Courthouse. Hunnewell's family attended the hearing.


  • The panel members

    Former State Law Enforcement Division chief Robert Stewart (chair) – Stewart retired as SLED in 2007 after 33 years with the agency and over 40 years in law enforcement. He was SLED chief for 20 years, serving four governors representing both parties. In addition, Stewart served as state homeland security advisor and was elected to the executive committee of the National Governors Association’s Homeland Security Advisors Council. He is a graduate of the FBI National Academy and the FBI National Executive Institute.

    Sheriff Leon Lott – Lott’s career in the Richland County Sheriff's Department began in 1975 when he joined the department as a patrol officer, advancing through the ranks to various positions including criminal investigator, narcotics agent, lieutenant and captain of the narcotics division, administrative captain, uniform Patrol captain, and watch commander. In 1993, he left the department to take over the St. Matthews Police Department as chief but returned after being elected sheriff in 1996. Lott is a graduate of the FBI National Academy, FBI National Executive Institute and Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government. He has received numerous honors including the Order of the Palmetto and is a former S.C. Sheriff of the Year.

    Robert Bolchoz – Bolchoz worked as a prosecutor for 5 years in the Ninth Judicial Circuit in Charleston, serving as deputy solicitor as well as chief prosecutor for the Trident Narcotics Task Force. He was also appointed special assistant United States Attorney and prosecuted a number of public corruption cases. He and his wife Cheryl moved to Columbia in 1995, where Bolchoz served as chief deputy state Attorney General and supervised the prosecution of numerous State Grand Jury matters while managing the Attorney General's office.

    Amy Cue – A University of South Carolina graduate with a master’s degree in social work, Cue serves as regional director for Growing Home Southeast, a private non-profit which oversees programs for at-risk children and families in the Midlands. In addition, she has served as Richland County Court-Appointed special advocate guardian ad litem and lead clinical specialist for Lutheran Family Services in the Carolinas.

    Johnny Gasser – A local attorney and co-owner of the firm Harris & Gasser where his practice focuses primarily on federal, state, and local criminal defense, Gasser has over 20 years’ experience as a state and federal prosecutor. He served in the 5th Circuit Solicitor's Office for nearly 16 years, nine of which as deputy solicitor, and has also served as U.S. Attorney and worked as a federal prosecutor in a variety of capacities.

    Rev. Chris Leevy Johnson – A widely respected and recognized community leader, Johnson is the campus pastor of Brookland Baptist Church, Northeast and president of Leevy's Funeral Home. A graduate of the University of North Carolina, he holds dual degrees from the University of South Carolina, including a Ph.D. in American history with a concentration in African-American religion. He is married to Cynthia Richardson Johnson and they are the parents of two children.

    Neal Lourie – With over two decades of experience in criminal law, Lourie is widely respected for his work as a prosecutor and defense attorney. From 1993 to 2000, he served in the 5th Circuit Solicitor's office, where he prosecuted violent criminals and drug dealers as special city prosecutor for Columbia. In 2000, he left the solicitor’s office to open the Lourie Law Firm, where he currently litigates civil, workers compensation and criminal matters.

    Carl L. Solomon – Solomon is a municipal judge for Columbia and a practicing attorney in state and federal Courts. He is a former president of the South Carolina Bar and has served on many committees regarding the legal system in our state, including the South Carolina Supreme Court Commission on the Profession. He has represented defendants and served as a prosecutor for the Attorney General's criminal domestic Violence program.

    Gregory Torrales – Owner of the LaTorr Consulting Firm, Torrales is a long-time community leader and advocate. He currently serves as president of the South Carolina Hispanic Leadership Council and has been instrumental in creating new public safety partnerships between law enforcement and South Carolina’s Hispanic community.

— A nine-member panel will start work July 29 on a review of law enforcement practices in Columbia after a woman was killed by repeat offenders whom some residents say should be been kept in jail.

Panel members were chosen by Mayor Steve Benjamin to recommend ways to keep career criminals off the streets, to review whether police officers should stop seeking approval from prosecutors before getting arrest warrants and to suggest changes that strengthen bonds that offenders obtain for release.

The goal, Benjamin said, is to come up with ways to “shut the revolving door that puts violent offenders who terrorize our community back on the street as quickly as we arrest them.”

The review comes after the death of Kelly Hunnewell, a 33-year-old mother of four children gunned down while she worked in a bagel shop bakery July 1.

The first session of the panel will take place at a conference room in the city parking garage at 820 Washington St. No starting time has been set yet.

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