Fired and charged Charleston County deputy says he punched man he had arrested before because he feared he had a gun
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — Body camera video of a sheriff's deputy who was fired and arrested in South Carolina shows him repeatedly punching a man in the head after a car chase. The man is knocked briefly unconscious, and the officer asks after handcuffing him if he enjoyed his nap.
Charleston County deputy James “Hank” Carter III pursued the man in his cruiser for nearly 10 minutes at high speed. The chase continued on foot until the man tripped. He's seen kneeling with his hands at his side when Carter reaches him in the recording, which was released late Monday.
Carter ordered the man to get down with an expletive and almost simultaneously punches him at least eight times in the head. He handcuffs the man who doesn't move, then lifts him to his feet and asks “you enjoy that little nap?"
Carter, 39, is white and the 32-year-old man is Black. Twice after getting him in handcuffs, Carter tells another officer “it’s your boy.”
Carter's lawyer said there was no racist component to the arrest. The deputy had arrested the man before and knew he was out on bond for being a felon in possession of a weapon, among other charges, his statement said.
When the man's hands were at his waistband, Carter had to make a split second decision to protect himself and others and chose to use his hands instead of a Taser or more dangerous methods, and stopped as soon as he realized the threat had passed, attorney Joseph Cannarella added.
“Deciding what force is reasonable and necessary is quite different to that officer compared to someone analyzing a video on the news from the confines of their office or home. Officers don’t work under armchair reflections,” Cannarella said.
Carter, an 8-year veteran in the sheriff's office, was charged last week with misconduct in office and misdemeanor third-degree assault and battery. The Charleston County Sheriff's Office released the video of the October incident after its internal investigation was complete and the man and his lawyers watched it with prosecutors.
The man's attorney, Marvin Pendarvis, called the evidence egregious, and said he's thankful his client is alive to tell investigators what happened.
“What if he had thought he presented a threat and it wasn't a punch, but it had been a gun?” Pendarvis said.
The man was charged with resisting arrest, failure to stop for blue lights, reckless driving and possession of cocaine. Meanwhile, a warning system the sheriff's office uses to review body camera and deputy behavior notified internal investigators of possible problems on Nov. 8, and Carter was fired the next day, Sheriff Kristin Graziano said.
On the video, Carter tells the man he thought he was reaching for a weapon in his waistband. The man said he was trying to pull up his pants. The video shows nearly his entire bottom exposed as he is handcuffed.
“You know me personally. Look at me. You know me personally. You know I don’t play with no guns," the man was recorded saying.
"You think I’m just supposed to wait?” Carter responded.
The body camera recording starts with the chase. During the nine minutes, Carter is heard cussing at other drivers to get out of the way and at a dispatcher for making a mistake.
The anger was obvious and spilled into Carter's actions after the car chase ended, Pendarvis said.
“Whatever happened was wrong leading up to it, but that doesn’t give you the right to go in and attack him,” Pendarvis said. “You never gave him the opportunity to actually surrender himself.”
The video shows other officers converging on the scene at the end but an internal investigation determined they weren't around during the punches. “Carter acted alone," the sheriff said in a video statement.
Pendarvis said he wants to see more investigation of the Charleston Sheriff's Office because he isn't convinced the sheriff is right.
“Those who knew about this — those who encouraged this type of behavior — that needs to be investigated and that needs to be investigated immediately,” Pendarvis said.