Documents: Family of Charleston man who died after DUI arrest paid out $550K

Updated: Nov. 8, 2019 at 5:48 AM EST
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - According to documents from the state’s insurance reserve fund, the city of Charleston and the county have paid out $550,000 to the family of a man who was arrested on suspicion of DUI and died a few days later.

The city paid out $475,000 while the county paid $75,000.

Earlier this year, Nathaniel Rhodes’ family alleged misconduct from the Charleston police department in the way they handled his arrest.

Documents showed Charleston Officer Paul Kelly signed the “refusal to transport” form on Rhodes’ behalf, and then took him to police headquarters instead of the hospital. The family alleges the form was signed for Rhodes so that the officer could give him the field sobriety test.

The South Carolina Law Enforcement Division report states Rhodes left the ambulance without assistance and took field sobriety tests which he failed.

Charleston police chief Luther Reynolds said his department had no idea that Kelly signed an EMS form stating that Rhodes did not wish to go to the hospital. Reynolds said the form is a function of Charleston County Emergency Medical Services, not his department.

The family of the 58-year-old man said he was in a crash on the Crosstown near Coming Street on Aug. 12, 2018.

The incident report states Rhodes was put on a stretcher and into an ambulance to be taken to the hospital for medical treatment.

According to the incident report, the officer spoke with Rhodes inside the ambulance and then found a glass bottle with a broken seal inside the van which was filled with wine. Rhodes told the officer he had been drinking it earlier in the afternoon.

The report states that Rhodes said he had no injuries that would stop him from completing a field sobriety test and EMS workers said there was no reason Rhodes had to be on the stretcher. He was then given the field sobriety test, put in handcuffs and taken to Charleston police headquarters on Lockwood Drive, according to the incident report.

While at the police station, Rhodes complained he was in pain. According to the incident report, officers were bringing Rhodes inside the station when he went limp and was lowered to the floor of the intake area. He also complained of heat and discomfort in handcuffs, the report stated.

Once EMS told Rhodes he would be uncuffed in a chair in an air-conditioned room, he was able to walk again, the report stated. When the officer went to do paperwork, he wrote in the report that he was told Rhodes had an apparent seizure and then taken to the hospital.

The family says it was too late by the time Rhodes was taken to the hospital where doctors tried surgery and he died four days later.

Reynolds said two of the four body camera videos of the incident were automatically deleted 30 days later because the department policy is for 30 days of retention. He said that policy will change to 180 days of retention. The SLED report confirmed there is no dash camera or body warn footage of the events that transpired at the accident site. Any footage that may have existed regarding this scene was tagged as an “Accidental” recording and was deleted in accordance with CPD policy.

No charges were filed against Kelly. The EMS worker seen in the video was later fired.

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