South Carolina Officers Sued After Roadside Cavity Search
The Post and Courier reports that the Aiken Department of Public Safety, four ADPS officers, the city of Aiken and ADPS director, Charles Barranco, are being sued in federal court for an allegedly illegal cavity search that was performed during an October, 2014 traffic stop. The suit asserts that officers had neither a valid search warrant nor probable cause.
According to the complaint, around 12:45 p.m., Lakey Hicks and Elijah Pontoon, both residents of Aiken County, were pulled over on Horry Street by ADPS officer Chris Medlin because their vehicle was displaying temporary, “paper” license tags.
Even though South Carolina does not require it, the lawsuit states that Officer Medlin ordered the passenger, Mr. Pontoon, to submit identification. Medlin also requested the car’s bill of sale from Ms. Hicks. The suit contends that, upon confirming Hicks’ documents and determining the validity of the bill of sale, continuing the detention was illegal.
Medlin ordered Pontoon and Hicks to exit the car and proceeded to handcuff them. Pontoon’s requests for information were apparently rebuffed, with Medlin only replying he would “explain it all … in a minute.” Medlin requested a K-9 unit, telling Pontoon that he was going to have a dog inspect the vehicle because of Pontoon’s “past history,” allegedly quipping, “You gonna pay for this one, boy.”
A thorough K-9 search of the car conducted by officer Clark Smith produced nothing. However, the detention continued. With the arrival of a female officer identified as Jane Doe in the complaint, officer Medlin requested a bodily search of Hicks, telling the female officer to “search her real good.”
Nothing was found on Hicks, who allegedly had her breasts exposed in full view of the male police officers and the general public during the roadside search, which was conducted out of the lines of sight of law enforcement dashcams. Medlin then decided to perform a search of Pontoon.
The complaint states that Medlin claimed to have felt something between Pontoon’s legs and tells Officer Clark to put on medical-style examination gloves. The officers then proceeded to use their fingers to anally probe Pontoon as he protested that he suffers from hemorrhoids and that the officers were grabbing them. His statements were dismissed by officers, one of whom said hemorrhoids “ain’t that hard.”
After the probe failed to produce anything, the complaint states Medlin explained the K-9 search by saying he recognized Pontoon from past drug enforcement work. Hicks and Pontoon were then given a warning and let go.
The City of Aiken denies the allegations, and both sides have asked for a trial by jury. A mediation deadline has been set for Nov. 29, but no trial date has been set.