Two women have filed a lawsuit against a beach town police chief in South Carolina after he allegedly sent them nearly 20 unsolicited and inappropriate images that were racist and sexist in nature during a law enforcement conference back in November of 2019 in Myrtle Beach.
According to a seven-page complaint filed in Charleston County, Emily Lide Ward and Latane Gooding claim that Sullivan’s Island Police Chief Chris Griffin approached their table during a police conference on leadership as they were laughing about a photo on their phones. It is unclear what the photo was, but Griffin allegedly asked if the women wanted more, according to the State.
It is not clear exactly what the images looked like, because it is not stated in the lawsuit.
Gooding supposedly took Griffin’s number and added him to a group text message with Ward. After that, Griffin allegedly sent the two women around 20 “unanswered and unprompted” messages that were “sexually explicit, racist, demeaning, and inappropriate.” After his last message, according to the lawsuit, Griffin asked, “Like any of those lol.”
The two women reported the texts to the executive director of the S.C. Police Chiefs Association. According to the complaint, executive director of the police association and Mount Pleasant Police Chief Carl Ritchie drove to Sullivan’s Island and shared the texts with town administrator Andy Benke the next day. Griffin’s membership with the S.C. Police Chiefs Association was revoked, but Sullivan’s Island did not open an investigation in the incident until after the women sued.
The town of Sullivan’s Island is also named in the lawsuit.
Here is more on what is happening with the lawsuit, per The State:
The women claim they experienced “humiliation, loss of sleep, anxiety, nervousness, physical sickness, physical and mental suffering, pain, and anguish” as a result of the town’s inaction toward Griffin’s behavior. According to his biography on the town’s website, Griffin has been police chief of the barrier island since January 2018 but his career in law enforcement began in 1995 with the North Charleston Police Department.
He joined the Sullivan’s Island Police Department in 1997 as a patrol officer and worked his way through the ranks. “Law enforcement is his passion,” Griffin’s biography reads, “and he especially enjoys helping people, becoming part of the community, and developing the department for the future.” Ward and Gooding sued the town for negligence, invasion of privacy and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
They seek unspecified damages, a jury trial and assert that Griffin’s conduct toward them was “outrageous.”
The lawyer defending Ward and Gooding did not respond to the State’s request for comment, but the newspaper says he did tell a local TV station that his clients believe Griffin should not serve in his role as police chief in Sullivan’s Island or elsewhere.