Greenville County Sheriff’s Office
(SC) – Five deputies have been named in a civil lawsuit after they beat and tased a man unconscious. The incident happened in 2018. Deputies initiated a traffic stop on a vehicle. The driver pulled into the driveway of his friend, Thomas Charles Felton Jones. Mr. Jones came out to find out what was happening and started recording the traffic stop.
Deputies told Mr. Jones to step back and leave the premises. Mr. Jones moved back, but the deputies were not satisfied and attacked Mr. Jones. The assault included tackling him to the ground, then beating and tasing him until he passed out. Mr. Jones was then arrested for assaulting a police officer and interfering with the officers’ duties.
Deputies Deposed for Lawsuit
The deputies were deposed and the depositions were “filed in U.S. District court Tuesday.” Some interesting information came out in the depositions. The deputies said they were on special assignment with the “aggressive patrol unit.” That unit was addressing crime in high minority areas and worked on a zero tolerance basis. One of the five officers named in the lawsuit is Sergeant Michael Kastner. You would think that the sergeant would know the name of the special assignment he was working in. But according to the sergeant’s deposition, he too, said the name was the aggressive patrol unit.
The spokesman for the Sheriff’s Office, Lt. Ryan Flood, says there is no such unit. Lt. Flood says there never was an “official” unit called “aggressive patrol.” According to Flood, they have a “directed patrol unit”. It sounds as if they knew it was being referred to as an aggressive unit, but due to the litigation, are playing a game of semantics.
Including the word aggressive in the name gives officers the belief that aggression is approved. If the Sheriff’s Office knew that’s how officers were referring to it then they are complicit in the police violence resulting from that name. It doesn’t matter whether it was official or not. If they knew it was being called that, it was their responsibility to put a stop to it and to clarify the mission.
Breakdown in Leadership
It’s scary enough to think that these officers felt that aggression was approved and that there should be zero tolerance. It gets worse when you read the testimony of Sergeant Michael Kastner. He is listed as a deputy in the deposition, which he is, but his rank is sergeant.
“And so this was a special assignment called the aggressive patrol that involved the deputies listed here actively and proactively patrolling the south end and west side areas listed on this report, right?” White said.
“Yes, sir,” Deputy Michael Kastner said.
“And who chose the south end and west side areas as the areas that would be proactively patrolled by the aggressive patrol division?” White asked.
“Mostly just left it up to deputies who worked it just because wherever they may be assigned, they have better insight into call volume or different areas that they felt needed extra enforcement. So we just would pick a couple different areas and go over there for an hour or so and then try somewhere else,” Kastner said.
This unit didn’t even have any direction. They just did what they wanted. Went after whoever they felt was the bad guy. This is the sergeant speaking. The person who should have been coordinating the operation. Instead of having a defined mission, the officers were allowed to let their bigotries run wild with the weight of the law behind them.
Civil Lawsuit Filed
Thomas Charles Felton Jones has filed a lawsuit and hopes to be awarded damages for the abuse he suffered. According to GreenvilleOnline.com, the five officers named in the lawsuit are: Deputy James Berggrun, Deputy Jonathan Cooper, Deputy John Thomas Edwards, Sergeant Michael Kastner and Deputy Charles Lancaster.
The charge of assaulting an officer was dropped, but Mr. Jones was found guilty of interfering with the duties of the officers. That is a very questionable decision and adds insult to injury. Mr. Jones moved back as instructed. If the officers didn’t feel it was enough, they should have given him further instruction. They didn’t. They just attacked him. I guess they felt the attack fit into their definition of zero tolerance.