Family of man arrested by Berkeley County deputies suing for excessive force

Published: Sep. 27, 2021 at 3:53 PM EDT|Updated: Sep. 27, 2021 at 5:30 PM EDT
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BERKELEY COUNTY, S.C. (WCSC) - The mother of a man who was arrested while inside his home is now suing members of the Berkeley County Sheriff’s Office alleging excessive force.

Rashad Smith was arrested by the Berkeley County Sheriff’s Office in October of 2018. At the time of the arrest, the agency stated it received a report of child abuse. However, the lawsuit claims Smith was a victim of “swatting,” which is the false reporting of an emergency for the intent of getting a response to a location.

According to the lawsuit, deputies punched, choked, tased, and hit Smith with a baton, leaving him with long-term dizziness, headaches, and seizures. The lawsuit claims these issues resulted in Smith’s death in February 2019. Smith’s mother is suing for excessive force, unlawful entry and search, and wrongful death.

An Internal Affairs report obtained by filing a Freedom of Information Act request concluded the deputies did not act with excessive force, noting “law enforcement personnel used the minimum amount of force necessary to take the suspect into custody, thus their actions were lawful and proper.”

Smith was charged with three counts of resisting arrest. At the time of the arrest, Sheriff Duane Lewis said there was an active warrant for Smith’s arrest for unpaid child support.

Named in the lawsuit are: Jordan Williamson, Michael Thompson, Robert Becker, Russell Gottula, Steven Worley, Samantha Stroud, and Ashley Betts. The Berkeley County Sheriff’s Office says only Gottula and Betts are still employed by the department.

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