Colleton County sheriff places himself on leave of absence following arrest

Updated: Nov. 12, 2019 at 8:49 AM EST
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WALTERBORO, S.C. (WCSC) - Colleton County Sheriff R.A. Strickland has placed himself on a leave of absence following his arrest this past weekend.

Strickland released the following statement Monday night:

For the last seven years the great citizens of Colleton County have placed their trust in me. As Sheriff, out of love, and respect for my employees, and the citizens of Colleton County, I have placed myself on a leave of absence. Effective immediately. This is standard policy within our office.

Chief Deputy, Buddy Hill, is someone I’ve always placed great trust in. He will continue to provide due diligence to the citizens of our community during my absence. This time will allow me to heal, and self-reflect on myself. I will strive to be stronger, and better at serving the citizens of Colleton, and my employees upon returning.

Earlier on Monday, members of the National Action Network called on Gov. Henry McMaster to remove Strickland from office. The group wanted Strickland removed from office after he was arrested Saturday on a charge of second-degree domestic violence.

NAN released a copy of a letter drafted to Gov. Henry McMaster that requests he remove Strickland from office.

“In order for us to become a state with ‘zero tolerance to domestic violence,’ the [precedent] must begin with Sheriff R.A. Strickland with his immediate removal from office as the sheriff of Colleton County,” the letter reads in part. “Our leaders must be held accountable for their actions immediately!”

“That was his promise to the people of this county, that he would do the right thing," National Action Network State Vice President Vincent Mack said. "Upon him saying that he would do the right thing and any moment that he goes against that oath then he must step down.”

State law does not appear to give the governor authority to remove a sheriff from office before an indictment occurs, something McMaster spokesman Bryan Symmes confirmed Tuesday morning.

“The governor’s authority to suspend an elected official is strictly provided if and when a formal indictment is handed down,” Symmes said in a statement. “Until then, he does not have the authority to suspend.”

State law allows a governor to suspend a sheriff upon indictment “until the suspended sheriff is acquitted, or the indictment is otherwise disposed of, or until a sheriff is elected and qualifies in the next general election for county sheriffs, whichever event occurs first.”

If Strickland were to be indicted on the charge and if McMaster were then to suspend him, state law specifically states the county coroner would act as sheriff “until the office is filled by appointment or election.”

Agents with the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division arrested Strickland Saturday and booked him into the Colleton County Detention Center, according to SLED spokesperson Tommy Crosby.

Colleton County Sheriff Andy Strickland
Colleton County Sheriff Andy Strickland

An affidavit states that during an argument, Strickland assaulted the victim by “punching her in the face, with a closed fist, more than once, which caused moderate bodily injury.” Investigators also said the victim suffered a defensive injury to her arm in an attempt to protect her face.

Strickland physically took possession of the victim’s cell phones, “blocking her access to both cell phones, preventing her from reporting the incident or receiving emergency medical assistance,” the affidavit states.

Investigators say he also damaged the vehicle she attempted to flee in.

“Boxing somebody with a closed fist, a woman with a closed fist, that tells me right there he is off the chain, he’s off the chain and he needs to be removed immediately,” National Action Network State President Elder James Johnson said.

SLED is investigating and photographed the victim’s injuries, the affidavit states.

Strickland was released on a $5,000 personal recognizance bond Saturday, and he can have no contact with the victim as part of his bond stipulation.

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