SLED investigating Hanahan PD for traffic stop on Berkeley Co. sheriff

SLED investigating Hanahan PD for traffic stop on Berkeley Co. sheriff

BERKELEY COUNTY, SC (WCSC) - Officials with the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division say they are investigating the Hanahan Police Department for their traffic stop on Berkeley County Sheriff Wayne DeWitt.

DeWitt was arrested by the South Carolina Highway Patrol on Dec. 28 following a hit-and-run in Berkeley County where authorities say DeWitt nearly lost control of his truck several times and sped away at speeds of 100 mph.

"This thoroughness is part of any high profile investigation," said Hanahan Police Chief Mike Cochran on Thursday night regarding the news that SLED was investigating his department."Though I would expect nothing less."

Officers with the Hanahan Police Department were the initial law enforcement units who made contact and stopped DeWitt. A SC Highway trooper then responded and arrested DeWitt who was then transported to the Charleston County Sheriff's Office. 

DeWitt was charged with drunken driving and leaving the scene of an accident involving another vehicle, but was not charged with failure to stop for blue lights; last week a protest was held outside the Hanahan Police Department calling on the department to charge DeWitt for failing to stop for blue lights.

SLED officials told Live 5 News that they are investigating the Hanahan Police Department in connection to the traffic stop, but did not release details on the investigation. 

Ninth Circuit Solicitor Scarlett Wilson said she requested SLED to investigate the traffic stop and expects to have the results of the investigation in the next 2 to 3 weeks.

Wilson released the following statement Thursday night:  

"As a lawyer and prosecutor, I am subject to special rules which limit my ability to make public comments about pending investigations.   I can only confirm that on January 9, I requested a SLED investigation into the December 28 traffic stop of Sheriff Dewitt and to concerns that developed after my review of the case.  SLED has been extremely responsive and we have been in contact often over the past two weeks.  I expect to have the final results of their investigation within the next 2 to 3 weeks."

In addition, late Thursday night the Hanahan Police Department released the following statement regarding SLED's investigation.

"The case involving Wayne DeWitt, Sheriff of Berkeley County, has been the source of many questions. Since the onset of this case, the Hanahan Police Department has been working with the relevant state authorities in order to ensure that the case is handled in a fashion that will ensure that justice is served.

Very early in the case, Chief Cochran met with Ninth Circuit Solicitor, Scarlett A. Wilson, to request her assistance with potential charges. Shortly thereafter, SLED was asked to follow up on the details of the case. SLED has been very responsive and is doing their due diligence in this matter.

All this is an ongoing investigation, no further public comment will be made by HPD. Chief Cochran believes that having the chief prosecutor, the SCHP and SLED involved will ensure the case is handled appropriately and in accordance with the laws of South Carolina. 

The public's interest in this case is understandable. At the conclusion of the case, a time-line will be released so that it will be clear to all concerned how the case evolved and why it was handled in the fashion that it was."

Following DeWitt's arrest, authorities subsequently released detailed reports and dash camera video of the incident, and DeWitt released a statement

On Dec. 28 at 5:46 a.m., a Highway Patrol trooper responded to the Hardees parking lot on Red Bank Road after a car suffered "severe rear end damage" after it was struck by a truck reportedly driven by DeWitt. 

The trooper then responded to the area of Bankton Circle where Hanahan police officers had stopped DeWitt. A Hanahan police officer on scene told the trooper that he was on his way to work when a pickup truck approached him from his rear at a high rate of speed.

The officer said he also observed the truck swerve around his marked patrol car, speed through a red light and nearly lose control. At one point, the officer reported that the truck sped away at speeds in "excess of 100 mph."

The officer said the driver never acknowledged his blue lights and siren. The truck eventually slowed down and stopped on Bankton Circle. 

A police corporal said he could smell alcohol coming from DeWitt, and observed an open container inside the truck. The responding SC trooper also reported smelling an odor of alcohol as well as observing DeWitt had "droopy, bloodshot and glassy" eyes.

When the trooper asked DeWitt about the collision, DeWitt said that the car had stopped right in front of him, and told the deputy he thought the "tailgate was already up and basically stopped in the road."

The trooper said when he questioned DeWitt on the "tailgate," Dewitt was "uncertain." An incident report states that DeWitt said he did not know for sure what kind of vehicle he had struck, but that it may have been a small car.

The trooper reported when he asked DeWitt if he had been drinking, DeWitt said yes and said he had last drank around 4 p.m. and thought he had one drink.

According to the incident report, after DeWitt lost his balance during a walk and turn sobriety test, DeWitt took his boots off and reached out to the officer for balance.  The officer reported that even without boots, DeWitt continued to lose his balance during the instructional phase.

Highway Patrol officials said DeWitt refused to submit to a breathalyzer test.

Troopers said DeWitt was then brought to the Charleston County Sheriff's Office.

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