Swansea Police Chief Accused of Using Excessive Force, SLED Investigating

By Jordan Lawrence | jordan@lexingtonchronicle.com
Posted 4/7/22

The citizen alleges the chief pulled him roughly from his truck.

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Swansea Police Chief Accused of Using Excessive Force, SLED Investigating

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The state Law Enforcement Division is investigating an incident between the police chief of Swansea and a town citizen after the citizen alleged the chief used excessive force.

Joe Phillips, 78, told the Chronicle that he was pulled roughly from his truck at the Swansea Police Department on March 30 after Chief Earl Williams III informed him he was under arrest. Phillips said he was bruised and scraped and that his prosthetic leg was pulled out of socket by Williams during the incident.

The Chronicle called Williams for comment, but hasn’t received a response.

SLED confirmed to the Chronicle that it is investigating an incident between a citizen and Williams and that the investigation was requested by Williams and the Lexington County Sheriff’s Department.

A spokesperson for the sheriff’s department said the agency requested the SLED investigation after receiving a citizen complaint from Swansea Town Councilwoman Doris Simmons, who told the Chronicle she helped Phillips locate the proper paperwork and to submit his complaint through the appropriate avenues.

The Chronicle reached out to Swansea Mayor Viola McDaniel to confirm Williams' status with the department during SLED's investigation, but has not received a reply.

WIS' Nick Neville reports that Williams told the station he put himself on administrative leave as soon as he knew of Phillips' complaint. Simmons said she doesn't know for sure if Williams placed himself on leave as she hasn't yet talked to the mayor, but she noted that  "he has no authority to put himself on administrative leave."

Simmons said copies of Phillips' complaint have been given to McDaniel, the town attorney and the rest of town council. She added that she has requested a special executive session of council to receive advice from the town attorney and ensure that the town responds appropriately moving forward.

A copy of Phillips' complaint against Williams was provided to the Chronicle. It indicates that there were no witnesses to the incident.

“The matter was sort of not handled very well. I think it could have been handled a whole lot different,” Simmons said of the incident. “[Williams] lost his professionalism momentarily.”

The councilwoman, who is white, added that she feels some members of the community are trying to make the incident about race when that’s not the case. 

Williams, who has served as chief of the Swansea Police Department since November 2020, is the first Black person to lead the department. Phillips is white.

“If the shoe had been on the other foot they would have been raising sand,” Simmons said of the community response.

Phillips told the Chronicle that the incident started when he arranged to meet the chief to discuss a Swansea Police car he had seen traveling 90 miles an hour down a rural road.

Phillips said he was dissatisfied with Williams' explanation (that the officer had bladder trouble).

“I spoke up and told him, 'That's a g--d--n lie,’” Phillips said. “After a second or so he said, 'You're under arrest.' And I said, 'I ain't under arrest nothing.' So I put the truck in reverse and I was backing up because he wasn't going to arrest me. Well, I backed up about 15 foot, I think, and he jumped on the running board or somehow or another the door got open, and he reached in here and throwed my truck in park and snatched the key out.”

Phillips said Williams then reached in and grabbed him by the shirt, ripping it, before grabbing him by his prosthetic leg, pulling it out of socket, and skinning his head, leg and shoulder in removing him from the truck. Phillips said Williams bruised one of his wrists putting him into handcuffs.

Phillips alleges that when backup law enforcement and Lexington County EMS arrived, Williams initially intervened with the emergency medical responders, telling them that Phillips would not go to the hospital. Phillips said he was eventually taken to the hospital.

Phillips said he was never told what he was being charged with or given a ticket during the incident and that he didn’t find out he was charged with disorderly contact until he was given a ticket with his paperwork upon leaving the hospital.

After his release from the hospital, Phillips said he was taken to the Lexington County Detention Center, where he was held until he posted bond on March 31. He alleges that his phone was not collected with the belongings returned to him upon his release from the county jail and that it was left out in the rain in the Swansea Police parking lot and is now ruined.

This is a developing story and will continue to be updated.

swansea police department, chief earl williams III, lexington county law enforcement, sc excessive force

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