State Trooper Fired in Speeding Incident

From Associated Press

A state trooper was captured on his own car's video camera and fired for yanking a speeding suspect out of her car, throwing her to the ground, cursing her and threatening to cut off her clothes.

State officials last week released the tape, which Public Safety Director Boykin Rose said showed Lance Cpl. W.H. Beckwith "violating every procedure in the book."

Beckwith, an 11-year Highway Patrol veteran, was fired in February for the Jan. 8 confrontation. His car was one of about 350 patrol cars equipped with video cameras that turn on with the cars' lights and sirens. The cameras keep running until the lights are turned off.

Rose has forwarded the tape to the State Law Enforcement Division, the state attorney general and the FBI for possible criminal charges, including assault and civil rights violations.

"It's imperative that the citizens of this state know this is an isolated incident," Rose said. "This is a blot on all of us."

The videotape was called "outrageous" by Robert Rowe, president of the South Carolina Troopers Assn. "There was a lot of unwarranted overreaction on Beckwith's part."

Beckwith could not be reached for comment.

The unidentified Florida woman, who was traveling to North Carolina, was pulled over for allegedly doing 80 mph in a 65-mph zone. One of her lawyers, John Delgado, said he wrote to the Public Safety Department last month to tell them of his intent to file a civil rights suit.

"It's just beyond description that that could happen in a free country," Delgado said. "That was just pure unadulterated anger, couched in an official capacity with a badge and a gun."

Shortly before 1 p.m. on Jan. 8, Beckwith was driving an unmarked patrol car along Interstate 95 in Clarendon County when he saw the woman driving.

His car's siren can be heard on the videotape and Beckwith had his blue lights on, Rose said, but the woman did not stop for seven minutes. "I had no idea who you were," she said later on tape.

Beckwith did not wear his trooper's hat while driving, as he was supposed to, Rose said.

Once the woman stopped, Beckwith approached the car with his gun drawn and began trying to drag her out. She protested that her seat belt was still fastened.

"I've been behind you with blue lights. . . . Get on the damn ground, lady! On the damn ground!" he shouted.

He yanked her from the car, pushed her onto her hands and knees, then forced her face-down on the pavement. When Beckwith tried to handcuff the woman, part of her clothing got in the way. "If I can't get it off, I'll cut it off," he told her.

When the woman said she could not roll over to stand up because she was next to the car, he shouted: "Roll over and stand your ass up, lady, now! You're fixin' to taste liquid hell in a minute!"

The woman suffered bruises and scratches, Rose said. She pleaded guilty to speeding, a charge of failure to stop for police was dropped, and she was released the same day, Rose said.

After the woman complained that day, Beckwith's superiors got the tape from his car. Beckwith was suspended Feb. 1, but it took until Feb. 22 to complete the investigation and fire him, Rose said.

"I can't begin to imagine what was going on in this trooper's mind," Rose said.

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