Charleston Co. deputy suspended for a day for improperly restraining man

Lamont Simmons (Source: Al Cannon Detention Center)
Lamont Simmons (Source: Al Cannon Detention Center)

NORTH CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - Officials with the Charleston County Sheriff's Office say a deputy will be suspended for a day after an internal investigation found that he improperly restrained a suspect during an arrest.

On Friday night, the sheriff's office released a letter of suspension for Deputy Joseph Stokes for an incident that happened on Jan. 28 at a gas station on Rivers Avenue where Stokes arrested 27-year-old Lamont Simmons on drug charges.

The investigation found that Stokes used a "shoulder pin" resulting in an unauthorized neck restraint.

"Had you been properly equipped as policy dictates, you would have been able to affect the arrest of a combative suspect without the use of an unauthorized neck restraint," stated a letter from the sheriff's office to Stokes.

The sheriff's office said because of this violation, Stokes is to be suspended from duty without pay for a period of eight hours from late Friday night and concluding this Saturday night.

"We understand that this officer used an illegal chokehold on this man," said Elder James Johnson at a news conference on Monday.

Johnson, who is NAN's SC president, said his first thought after seeing video of the incident was of Eric Gardner, the man who died after New York City Police put him in a chokehold while trying to arrest him in 2014.

Simmons was subsequently charged with possession with intent to distribute cocaine, possession with intent to distribute cocaine base and resisting arrest.

Suspect arrested following altercation caught on camera

A video of a portion of the arrest was recorded by a bystander and then provided to Simmons' family, who then posted it on Facebook:

I went back and forth on rather or not to share this video. This happen to my little brother on Sunday at the Murphy’s gas station. He was in there purchasing something. As he was standing in line a OFF Duty cop ask him what he had in his pocket. He didn’t answer him.. he turned around to walk out the store the officer then grabbed his arm. He was trying to get away he then slammed him to the floor and started to choke him he went unconscious twice . He was choking him so hard that blood was coming out of his nose. And if you listen the guy ask the officer if he can release him as he said”I’m not releasing nothing “ since when do you go in a store to buy something and your being harassed and almost loose your life. I have contacted Live 5 News and Channel 2 News and they won’t upload the story. But i am and justice will be serve. He was hurt in the process and still hurt. He has since been to the hospital 3 times. This was the Charleston County Sheriff's Office police department. And he was not fighting as you heard in the video he was moving around because he was trying to stay ALIVE!!!

Posted by Shanell Campbell on Thursday, February 1, 2018

According to newly released documents from the sheriff's office, Stokes stopped at Murphy's Express on 8599 Rivers Avenue prior to reporting to work.

While in the store, authorities say Stokes saw a clear plastic bag containing a white power substance protruding from Simmons' pocket.

The deputy then approached Simmons to speak to him about the bag. According to the report, Simmons attempted to run which resulted in a physical altercation.

The sheriff's office says Stokes quickly took Simmons to the ground where the deputy moved to a position on the suspect's back.

The report states Stokes then attempted to apply a "shoulder pin," and when he was unable to do so, Stokes used an "unauthorized neck restraint."

Charleston County Sheriff's Office report

In a previously released report, the sheriff's office says Stokes was on his way to work and was not equipped with his duty belt, which consists of handcuffs, a stun gun and other equipment.

Authorities say Stokes attempted to subdue Simmons until additional officers could arrive.

The deputy asked Simmons to step off to the side so he could ask Simmons about contents he observed but said Simmons started to pull away and began to actively resist the attempt to detain him, the incident report states.

Deputies say Simmons pushed into Stokes with enough force to dislodge the deputy's body-worn camera, and during the struggle, Simmons threw the deputy against the shelves along the front wall of the business.

Simmons continued to ignore "loud verbal commands to stop resisting and to stop reaching into his pockets," the report states. Store surveillance footage audio contains repeated commands from Stokes to Simmons to "stop" and "relax."

During the struggle, Simmons reached into his pockets and was able to gain control over the bag, open it and shake the contents into the air, the report states.

Stokes said he attempted to conduct a shoulder pin restraint which was modified because of Simmons' positioning and was able to gain control of Simmons.

At some point during the struggle, a concerned citizen assisted Stokes in controlling Simmons, the report states.

North Charleston police arrived and took Simmons into custody.

Police collected approximately one gram of a white crystal-like substance, which field-tested presumptive for cocaine, while Stokes collected approximately one gram of a white powder-like substance that also field-tested presumptive for cocaine, authorities reported.

Simmons was transported by ambulance to Trident Medical Center to be evaluated and later transported to the Al Cannon Detention Center.

Stokes was also transported to a hospital for evaluation after possible exposure to the drugs during the struggle.

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