COLUMBIA, SC — “I wish I could strangle him,” Richland County Leon Lott said of his ex-deputy, 14-year-employee Paul Derrick.
Unfortunately, said Lott, that would be improper, so “I will do everything I can to make sure he never works in law enforcement again.”
Lott fired Derrick, 49, on Tuesday.
Columbia police have charged Derrick with assault in an incident last week in which he – while off-duty and dressed in casual clothes – berated a young female soldier for no apparent reason in a Columbia restaurant and forced her into handcuffs before astonished patrons. One patron recorded the scene on a cell phone camera.
The woman, who was not identified, is a soldier at Fort Jackson. The incident happened Oct. 7 at Wild Wings, 4500 Devine St., near where it intersects with Fort Jackson Boulevard.
When he first watched that video, Lott said, “At first it made me angry, then it made me sick and disgusted. There is absolutely no excuse for his behavior.”
The video shows Derrick, a heavyset, bald headed man in a loosefitting green T-shirt, forcing a young woman in civilian clothes into handcuffs. On the video, she appears panic-stricken, mouth open wide as she hyperventilates. Derrick lifts her up and down as she falls back to the ground several times.
For some reason, Derrick had left the bar to get his badge, pistol and handcuffs. When he returned, he began berating her as he put her in handcuffs, the video shows and Lott acknowledged.
“I’m here to say, I’m sorry. I wish I could have prevented it from happening,” Lott said. “I apologize for his action, everybody that saw it, and everybody that was subjected to it.”
Lott said he intends to show the video as a training tool to deputies as an example of what not to do. “He showed absolutely no common sense.”
Lott also thanked the citizen who recorded the video. The video, which was shown to city police when they arrived at Wild Wings, was crucial to their quick arrest of Derrick.
Derrick had had at least “one shot” of liquor and had ordered a beer before the incident, Lott said.
Although Derrick told the woman during the incident he was a Marine, Lott said there was nothing in Derrick’s record to indicate he had ever been a Marine.
Derrick is a retired Columbia firefighter who works for the sheriff’s office as “a paddy wagon driver” transporting prisoners, Lott said. Although Derrick had some disciplinary problems in his past, none approached the severity of this incident, Lott said.
If the woman had been acting questionably, the off-duty Derrick “never should have interjected himself into a non-emergency situation,” Lott said. “He violated a book full of policies.”
Lott made his comments at a Wednesday afternoon press conference at his Two Notch Road headquarters.
Asked what Derrick was going to do with the soldier after he placed her in handcuffs, Lott said, “I have no idea.”
Reach Monk at (803) 771-8344.