2 Columbia police officers suspended without pay

The two Columbia police officers charged with using excessive force while arresting a South Carolina football player last winter have been placed on investigative suspension without pay until their cases are resolved — a process that could take months.

Officers Roger Gilland and David Beddingfield Jr. are scheduled to appear at the Richland County courthouse at 11 a.m. today for a bail hearing on the misconduct in office charge, which carries a maximum penalty of one year in prison and a $1,000 fine.

Gamecocks offensive lineman Kevin Young claims the officers punched him repeatedly and bloodied his nose while trying to subdue him following a fight with a West Columbia man in the early-morning hours of March 2 outside a Five Points bar.

A grand jury indicted the officers last week after a three-month SLED investigation.

While pledging his support for the officers, Columbia Police Chief Tandy Carter said he planned to obtain the SLED report and begin an internal investigation.

“We want them to know the department’s behind them,” Carter said Monday at an afternoon news conference. “We’re going to work with them, and we haven’t abandoned them.”

Under city policy, city manager Charles Austin or Carter can initiate an investigative suspension if an officer is accused of a crime. The suspension is not considered a disciplinary action and cannot be appealed internally, according to the policy.

“That’s something we’re mandated to do because we’re a law-enforcement agency. Most law-enforcement agencies follow the same policies,” Carter said. “That does not mean or indicate that we perceive that they are guilty.”

Attempts to reach Gilland and Beddingfield were unsuccessful.

Mark Whitlark, Beddingfield’s attorney, said he planned to file a motion requesting an expedited trial.

“We do want to get it done quickly because he’s not getting his pay,” Whitlark said.

Carter referred to the two men as “rookie officers,” saying Gilland has been with the force for 25 months and Beddingfield for eight months.

The chief said the department received a complaint of excessive force involving Gilland in a previous case, but Gilland was exonerated.

“As a police department, we’re going to try to be fair, impartial and beholding to the facts in this case,” Carter said. “And we’ll let the facts dictate what happens thereafter.”

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.

The 20-year-old Young originally was charged with fighting and resisting arrest. But police dropped the charges after Young’s attorney, Neal Lourie, filed a formal complaint with the city.

Carter said he did not know why police agreed to dismiss the charges.

“Officers take a lot of risks. They make more decisions than most people in any given day. Many of those decisions are very tough decisions,” Carter said. “Sometimes they have to pay, as you can see in this case, with the indictments.”

The indictments came a week after Lourie and longtime USC trustee Eddie Floyd accused campus police of targeting USC athletes. Although Young’s case involved city police, Whitlark said Floyd’s comments have created tension between law-enforcement officials and the university.

But Carter, who spoke to USC football players this month at a team orientation meeting, said he did not feel public pressure to suspend the officers.

“I’m new here, so not too many people are going to be able to pressure me about doing anything,” said Carter, who was hired in March to oversee a department with nearly 300 sworn officers and 356 total employees.

Reach Person at (803) 771-8496.

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