BISHOPVILLE, SC (WIS) – A Lee County deputy who crashed a tax-payer owned truck in Columbia while his 6-year-old was inside has been demoted.
Lee County Sheriff Daniel Simon demoted narcotics Captain Lynn Blakney, who was the head of the department's drug unit, to lieutenant over the patrol division. Blakney is now wearing a uniform and answering calls for service in Lee County.
The crash happened Dec. 27 on the exit ramp at the Clemson Rd. and Interstate 20 intersection. Troopers said Blakney got off the interstate and slammed into the back of a pregnant woman's vehicle. The force of the crash pushed the woman's car into the back of a third car.
The South Carolina Highway Patrol charged Lee County Sheriff's Capt. Lynn Blakney with traveling too fast for conditions. Blakney also had his 6-year-old son inside, according to the sheriff.
The pregnant woman, whose identity WIS promised to protect, said that she was taken to the hospital for an evaluation, but was not injured.
Blakney was driving a department-issued unmarked Ford F-150 undercover narcotics truck. The patrol estimates the crash caused $1,000 in damage to the truck, another $4,000 in damage to the pregnant woman's vehicle and $800 in damage to the third vehicle involved in the crash.
Lee County Sheriff Daniel Simon said a closer look shows only $500 in damage to the deputy's truck.
Simon said he got word of the crash Dec. 27 and investigated how it happened and why Blakney was out of the county with his son in the truck.
"He took his son to the doctor in Columbia and met his wife over there," said Simon. "He was getting off at the Clemson Road exit and it was raining that day and he told me he hit the brakes and slid into the stopped cars."
Lee County Sheriff's Office policy only allows employees to drive tax payer-owned vehicles into neighboring counties that touch Lee County while off duty. Richland County does not border Lee County.
"He had permission to drive the truck to Richland County," Simon said. The sheriff said Blakney got permission from Chief Deputy Tim Clavon to use the truck for personal use. "Clavon told him to be careful because of the holiday traffic," said Simon.
Simon also confirmed that he's investigating Blakney after information surfaced that he conducted an unlawful traffic stop on a repossession truck on Dec. 19. Blakney stopped the truck on Interstate 20 after the truck made a repossession around 10:45 a.m.
Simon told WIS he's asked county dispatch director Duane Huggins for dispatch records related to the repossession and any traffic stops associated with it.
In December 2010, Blakney was given a written reprimand for violating the department's supervisory accountability policy after WIS cameras captured him and 3 other deputies at a nightclub potentially wasting tax dollars and performing hands-on security checks that some might call "inappropriate." One of the other deputies involved was fired in that incident.
Simon initially said Blakney would not be disciplined for the Richland County crash, but later said he was still investigating and would make a final decision on whether to discipline Blakney when he closes his investigation. On Jan. 6, Simon said he demoted Blakney and returned him to patrol duties.
This is not the first time an incident involving a Lee County vehicle outside the county has caused issues for the department. In May, a Lee County deputy was fired for taking her marked cruiser to an Upstate nightclub.
NEW VEHICLE USE INVESTIGATION
Simon confirmed Tuesday that another deputy was disciplined for taking his patrol outside of Lee County in August. Deputy Shante Demary, a school resource officer, was spotted near Axson, North Carolina with two high school football referees in his Lee County patrol car.
Lee County school district athletes were not scheduled for any games that weekend, according to the district.
Simon declined to discuss the results of his investigation into the complaint. WIS has filed a Freedom of Information Act request to find the outcome of the Demary complaint.