South Carolina police are completely out of control.
According to a federal lawsuit filed on behalf of Lakeya Hicks and Elijah Pontoon, they were subjected to a roadside search where officers searched inside Elijah’s rectum and exposed Lakeya’s breasts — all for being in a car with paper tags.
Having valid paper tags isn’t even a crime in the state of South Carolina. Thankfully, the entire incident was recorded on a dashcam.
via Washington Post:
Here’s what happened: Lakeya Hicks and Elijah Pontoon were in Hicks’s car just a couple of blocks from downtown Aiken when they were pulled over by Officer Chris Medlin of the Aiken Department of Public Safety. Hicks was driving. She had recently purchased the car, so it still had temporary tags.
In the video, Medlin asks Hicks to get out, then tells her that he stopped her because of the “paper tag” on her car. This already is a problem. There’s no law against temporary tags in South Carolina, so long as they haven’t expired.
Medlin then asks Pontoon for identification. Since he was in the passenger seat, Pontoon wouldn’t have been required to provide ID even if the stop had been legitimate. Still, he provides his driver’s license to Medlin. A couple of minutes later, Medlin tells Hicks that her license and tags check out. (You can see the time stamp in the lower left corner of the video.) This should be the end of the stop — which, again, should never have happened in the first place.
Instead, Medlin orders Pontoon out of the vehicle and handcuffs him. He also orders Hicks out of the car. Pontoon then asks Medlin what’s happening. Medlin ignores him. Pontoon asks again. Medlin responds that he’ll “explain it all in a minute.” Several minutes later, a female officers appears. Medlin then tells Pontoon, “Because of your history, I’ve got a dog coming in here. Gonna walk a dog around the car.” About 30 seconds later, he adds, “You gonna pay for this one, boy.”
Moments later, a K9 officer named Clark Smith arrives. He walks around the car with his dog. A fourth police officer then shows up. The four officers then spend the next 15 minutes conducting a thorough search of the car. Early into the search, Medlin exclaims, “Uh-huh!” as if he has found something incriminating. But nothing comes of it.
After the search of the car comes up empty, Medlin tells the female officer to “search her real good,” referring to Hicks. The personal search of Hicks is conducted off camera, but according to the complaint filed by Phillips, it allegedly involved exposing Hicks’s breasts on the side of the road in a populated area. The complaint also alleges that this was all done in direct view of the three male officers. That search, too, produced no contraband.
The officers then turn their attention to Pontoon. Medlin asks Pontoon to get out of the car. He cuffs him and begins to pat him down. Toward the end of the first video, at about the 12:46:30 mark, he tells Pontoon: “You’ve got something here right between your legs. There’s something hard right there between your legs.” Medlin says that he’s going to “put some gloves on.”
The anal probe happens out of direct view of the camera, but the audio leaves little doubt about what’s happening. Pontoon at one point says that one of the officers is grabbing his hemorrhoids. Medlin appears to reply, “I’ve had hemorrhoids, and they ain’t that hard.” At about 12:47:15 in the video, the audio actually suggests that two officers may have inserted fingers into Pontoon’s rectum, as one asks, “What are you talking about, right here?” The other replies, “Right straight up in there.”
Pontoon then again tells the officers that they’re pushing on a hemorrhoid. One officer responds, “If that’s a hemorrhoid, that’s a hemorrhoid, all right? But that don’t feel like no hemorrhoid to me.”
The officers apparently continue to search Pontoon’s rectum for another three minutes. They found no contraband. At 12:50:25, Medlin tells Pontoon to turn around and explains that he suspects him because he recognized him from when he worked narcotics. “Now I know you from before, from when I worked dope. I seen you. That’s why I put a dog on the car.”
That was Medlin’s “reasonable suspicion” to call for a drug dog — he thought he recognized Pontoon from a drug case. Medlin could well have been correct about recognizing Pontoon. He has a lengthy criminal history that includes drug charges, although his record appears to be clean since 2006, save for one arrest for “failure to comply.” Of course, even if Medlin did recognize Pontoon, that in itself isn’t cause to even stop him, much less search his car, or to subject him to a roadside cavity search.
With no contraband and no traffic violation to justify the stop in the first place, Medlin concluded the stop by giving Hicks a “courtesy warning,” although according to the complaint, there’s no indication of what the warning was actually for. Perhaps it was to warn to steer clear of police officers in Aiken.
It’s sad that we’re relieved that despite these people’s rights being violated that they’re still alive.