A federal grand jury has indicted a South Carolina sheriff and two deputies after federal investigators determined that the law enforcement officers arrested a man, created a fake police report, destroyed the arrestee’s cell phone, held the victim in jail on false charges and blamed it all on another cop, all because they were upset that the man filmed them on his cell phone camera.
WBTW reports that Alex “Big A” Underwood, the first black sheriff elected in Chester County S.C., was indicted on charges ranging from conspiracy to falsifying evidence, along with Chief Deputy Robert Sprouse and Lt. Johnny Neal Jr. Underwood, who has served in the position since 2013. Underwood was suspended from office less than an hour after the indictments were announced, according to the Rock Hill Herald.
According to court documents, on Nov. 20, 2018, Underwood, Neal and Sprouse responded to a report of a man fleeing the scene of an automobile accident in Fort Lawn, S.C. When they arrived, a man who lived near the scene came out of his home and began filming the commotion on his cell phone and broadcasting it on Facebook Live. The indictment states that the man “did not enter the roadway or interfere with law enforcement activities.”
Underwood repeatedly told the man, identified as “K.S.,” to go back to his porch. When K.S. retreated to his porch, Underwood reportedly lunged at K.S. and demanded his cell phone. Deputy Neal eventually helped Underwood restrain K.S. and, after handcuffing him, knocked KS to the ground, injuring him.
While K.S. was being taken to the detention center, the officers realized that the video had been published on Facebook Live. But when they arrested K.S., he didn’t have his phone! What could these brave law enforcement officers do?
Prosecutors say that Underwood told deputies to draw up a search warrant saying that one of the cops had lost a radio during the incident and that it might be inside the home of K.S. But before the warrant was signed, the three officers entered the home to search for the cell phone. Sprouse eventually found the device by asking another deputy to call it and locating the ringing phone. Meanwhile, they called the detention center and instructed the staff to place a “hold” on K.S., detaining the citizen for three days.
After finding the phone, Sprouse delivered it to the deputy in charge of collecting evidence. In January, the officers reportedly created a police report with fake details about K.S.’s arrest. The report said that K.S. left his yard, impeded officers and used profane language toward them during the incident
K.S. detailed the lies in the report, backed up by his video evidence and the fact that his home was searched and his phone was seized without a warrant. But the three men shifted the blame to the evidence officer, saying that he had taken the phone instead. The officers signed a disciplinary report against the officer for destroying or concealing evidence, causing the report to be sent to the FBI.
When the FBI came to investigate, Sprouse told the federal investigators that he had no idea who took the phone out of the house, while Underwood allegedly told the feds that he didn’t even see the video until a week later. But the FBI knew that he had seen the video on Facebook the day it was streamed.
Underwood has been charged with deprivation of rights, tampering, falsifying records in a federal investigation and making false statements. Neal has been charged with deprivation of rights and falsifying records. Sprouse has been charged with tampering, falsifying records and making false statements. All three have been charged with criminal conspiracy.
Underwood has been in trouble before. A jury cleared the sheriff in a 2014 lawsuit that accused him of forcing former Maj. Mary Ann Tolbert into sex. In February, child psychologists accused his teen program, “Project STORM,” of being abusive. In March, an article in the Post and Courier stated that Underwood spent taxpayers money on first-class tickets, chauffers and luxury accommodations to conferences.
Underwood faces more than 50 years in prison. In the last 10 years, 13 of South Carolina’s sheriffs have been indicted on criminal charges.