The U.S. Justice Department announced Monday that three white police officers were unjustified in using excessive force when they arrested a black 15-year-old in South Carolina in January of 2016.
Stephen Anderson, of Summerville, had been pulled over for speeding on Jan. 9, 2016, after he drove his car around a stop sign into another car. While officers already had his keys in the ignition, Anderson refused to get out of the car, and they feared that he was reaching into the vehicle, and they used a stun gun to try to subdue him. The stun gun shocked him in the leg while one officer held his right arm, with Anderson’s hand out in front of him.
Anderson did not resist.
Officers handcuffed Anderson and took him to the police station, where he spent the night and was released the next day with a minor ticket. Later that month, an anonymous caller reported to the State Law Enforcement Division that Anderson was acting erratic in his home, and he was taken to a hospital for observation.
The three officers involved in the arrest — Brian Albright, David Williams and Derek Green — were fired in December of 2017. Because they had fired their employment, they never have a criminal conviction, and the only basis for federal charges is if a jury found that they committed a violation of the Constitution.
In a statement, U.S. Attorney Channing Phillips of the Charleston Division of the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division said Anderson has a “disfavored status” in his community. “Mr. Anderson has a difficult childhood that he has not had access to the opportunity to control, and the outcome of his interactions with law enforcement officers had a profoundly negative impact on him,” Phillips said.
He explained that Anderson was thrown in jail for more than a week because he had not paid a fine for traffic violation. Despite the lack of a charge, “This case sends a clear message that police officers cannot — and will not — use excessive force and disregard constitutional rights, even when that use occurred under circumstances of their own making.”
He concluded that the officers had used “a pattern and practice of unconstitutional conduct” that “severely” interfered with Anderson’s life.