Sidewalk arrest video cited in suit

A surveillance video taken outside a Five Points bar is key evidence in a lawsuit against the Columbia Police Department and has prompted an internal affairs investigation into the incident that led to the suit's filing.

On Oct. 17, Jonathan McCoy, a Myrtle Beach attorney, was arrested outside Sharky's bar in Five Points and charged with interfering with a police officer.

McCoy spent the night in the Alvin S. Glenn Detention Center, where he witnessed another inmate commit suicide.

McCoy maintains in a federal lawsuit that he did not interfere with the police officers while they were arresting a friend. Instead, he said, he was exercising his constitutional right to question law enforcement officers in public.

In a police department incident report, officers said McCoy "grabbed an officer by the arm and asked what was happening." Officers told McCoy to step back, but he "continued to intervene by getting in (officer's) face asking about what was happening."

After McCoy ignored the police warning to step back, he was arrested, the incident report said.

McCoy's lawsuit, filed Jan. 19, said he was asking the police why they were arresting his friend, who had been asked to leave the Red Hot Tomatoes club.

The surveillance video from Sharky's was submitted as evidence in the lawsuit. Sharky's is next door to Red Hot Tomatoes on Harden Street. Both nightclubs have video cameras outside their front doors that capture activity on the street.

McCoy and his attorneys believe the surveillance video shows he did not interfere with the arrest.

McCoy is asking the city to dismiss his charges and pay an unspecified amount in damages for his time in jail and the trauma caused by witnessing the suicide.

Michael King, assistant city manager for public safety, said Thursday night he has ordered an internal affairs investigation into the case. Columbia Police Chief Tandy Carter will lead the investigation.

The police department adheres to the highest standard of conduct, and allegations of misconduct will be investigated, King said in a statement.