ODPS illustration

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Orangeburg Department of Public Safety

Orangeburg City Council has agreed to pay up to $10,000 toward a settlement stemming from allegations an Orangeburg Department of Public Safety officer used excessive force in 2018.

The case of Nathaniel Williams vs. The City of Orangeburg was settled July 26 through mediation, according to court records.

Williams alleged that ODPS officers used unwarranted excessive force in detaining him. He was innocent of all wrongdoing, according to his complaint against the city.

Council agreed to pay the settlement after discussing the matter behind closed doors for about 1-1/2 hours earlier this month.

City Administrator Sidney Evering noted the framework of a settlement has been put in place, but it has not been officially agreed and signed upon.

The case could be officially settled in “the next few weeks,” he said.

“We can’t provide any additional information at this time,” Evering said when asked the officer’s name and the status of the officer on the police force.

Skyler Hutto, Williams’ attorney, said in a prepared statement that, “I’ve represented numerous clients in false arrest and excessive force complaints, including some versus the City of Orangeburg. There are two sides to this coin.”

“On one side, anyone involved with the justice system – lawyers, police officers, judges and so on – has to be vigilant for bad actors within law enforcement,” Hutto continued. “Developments such as the widespread use of body camera footage have been amazing tools in making sure we hold everyone accountable.”

The settlement comes just as the ODPS deals with one of its former officers – 38-year-old David Lance Dukes – being charged by the State Law Enforcement Division with first-degree assault and battery. He’s accused of using excessive force when he responded to a call. Dukes has been terminated by ODPS.

When asked if he had any concerns about ODPS in light of the two cases, Evering said, “I am always going to act in a way that we can ensure the public can trust our Department of Public Safety.”

“If we ever find an issue, whether internally or externally, … we will hold folks accountable,” Evering continued. “The trust the community has in us is far too important to allow anything to diminish it.”

“We are committed to doing what is necessary to make sure the public can always trust our Department of Public Safety to do the right thing,” Evering said.

When asked if he had any concerns ODPS, Hutto said, “In general, my experience with our Department of Public Safety is that they are one of the more professional law enforcement operations in this state on the whole.”

“They are one of the bodies that I deal with that has best adopted transparency for those charged with a crime or dealing with an officer,” he said.

Williams’ lawsuit says the incident occurred during the early-morning hours on Oct. 26, 2018 when an ODPS officer approached Williams at a John C. Calhoun Drive motel.

The officer approached Williams despite the fact that no report or call had been made to ODPS, Williams’ complaint claims.

The officer allegedly called Williams to his vehicle and demanded Williams show him his hands. According to the complaint, Williams showed the officer his hands and then put his hands into his pockets.

The complaint claims the officer continued to harass Williams regarding his hands being in his pockets. The officer allegedly seized Williams, “a seizure clearly prohibited by South Carolina case law and the state constitution,” the complaint states.

“At this point, Plaintiff had committed no crime, but (the officer) slammed plaintiff into the side of the ODPS vehicle and began berating plaintiff about plaintiff possessing marijuana,” the complaint alleges. “No marijuana was found and no other illegal items were found. Nonetheless, (the officer) threw plaintiff to the ground and called for backup.”

The complaint goes on to allege that ODPS officers restrained Williams by “piling on top of him unnecessarily.”

“In an effort to justify this action, ODPS charged plaintiff with loitering, public disorderly conduct and resisting arrest,” the complaint claims. “He was also arrested on these charges.”

The complaint alleges Williams needed medical treatment for his injuries.

Later, the resisting arrest charge was dismissed at a preliminary hearing and the city attorney dismissed the loitering and public disorderly conduct charge. The complaint states a ticket was amended to reflect a new charge of “disobeying a police command.”

Later, Williams was also found not guilty on the charge of disobeying a police command after the state offered no evidence at his trial, according to the complaint.

In its answer filed Feb. 12, the City of Orangeburg denied any allegations of wrongdoing. Throughout its answer, the city demanded proof of the allegations, offering 21 defenses in its answer.

The city claimed its conduct was in good faith, that any injuries sustained were not directly caused by the city and that it was not responsible for discretionary acts done by an employee.

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