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Key players testify as trial continues

Posted: February 1, 2011 4:52 p.m.
Updated: February 2, 2011 5:00 a.m.

The federal civil rights trial of former Kershaw County deputy Oddie Tribble Jr. continued with testimony Friday and Monday from both Tribble and the man he was seen beating on a jail sally port video, Charles Shelley.

Both pieces of testimony were peppered with coarse language as both men repeated the words they claim to have exchanged on a Kershaw County Sheriff’s Office (KCSO) transport van between a license checkpoint on Haile Street and the Kershaw County Detention Center (KCDC). They both testified to their versions of not only what happened on that van but inside the KCDC’s sally port where -- as caught by security cameras -- Tribble struck Shelley 27 times with an asp, a simple law enforcement tool also known as a baton.

The victim

“All I can recall is the first, second and third licks, after that it was kind of a big blur.”

That’s what Charles Shelley said of Tribble striking him with a KCSO-issued asp. Other than that, he vaguely recalled being snatched up off the floor of the county jail’s sally port, walking to the KCDC’s intake door in pain and a corrections officer coming out to tell Tribble to take him to the emergency room.

Before the jury was even brought in Friday morning to Courtroom II of the Matthew J. Perry Jr. Courthouse in Columbia, Assistant U.S. Attorney Tara McGowan asked U.S. District Judge Cameron Currie that anything about Shelley from prior to Aug. 5, 2010, be “off the table.” Defense attorney Johnny Gasser complained that would keep the defense from examining Shelley’s credibility.

Gasser claimed -- and Shelley himself would later confirm -- that Shelley still smokes marijuana on nearly an everyday basis, drinks alcohol, uses cocaine, crack cocaine and prescription drugs and has sold drugs in the past.

“We have a right to explore that, based on the fact that he self-medicates every day. We should have the right to explore his state of mind today,” Gasser said, arguing also that the jury should determine if Shelley has been given preferential treatment by going unpunished for state and federal drug violations.

“Mr. Shelley is not the suspect, he’s the victim,” McGowan shot back. “No matter what the defense says, he shouldn’t be allowed to bring in prior bad acts to make the victim look bad and their client look good. It’s irrelevant to his testimony.”

Currie agreed, but also said she would instruct the jury that it could consider Shelley a less credible witness due to any current influence of drugs or alcohol.

Shelley often spoke very slowly, sometimes pausing for long periods of time after being asked a question. He said he was born in New Jersey and moved to Camden when he was 7 or 8 years old. His mother passed away when he was in fifth grade; his father when he was in eighth or ninth grade. After graduation, he moved around a bit before returning to South Carolina. Shelley said he worked in construction, even owning his own business at one point. But he’s not working now.

“Nothing at the moment, since this situation,” Shelley said. “Since suffering my injuries, I lost my job being laid up for a couple of months. It’s been very stressful.”

He admitted it was fair to call him an addict, that marijuana is a “way of me coping with life’s turns,” since he can no longer afford medical treatment. Shelley insisted, however, that he had not used any marijuana during the previous 48 hours. He said he might have had a beer, though.

Shelley said he was dropping off some friends after ending his day Aug. 5 and heading home when he was stopped at the Haile Street checkpoint just outside the Camden city limits. Shelley was ultimately charged with driving under suspension, open container, being a habitual offender, giving false information to deputies and simple possession of marijuana after a joint was found in his pocket.

“I had smoked it earlier in the day, but not when I was pulled over,” said Shelley.

McGowan brought up points Gasser would try to hammer Shelley with later: had his handcuffs been switched from metal to plastic “flexi-cuffs” and had he resisted deputies at the roadblock?

“I do not recall my handcuffs being changed and I do not remember resisting in any way,” Shelley said.

He was the last to be placed on the van, he said, with one woman in front and a number of men in back.

“It was very hot and foul smelling,” said Shelley. “I became ill and I asked (Tribble) that he go get my medication -- an asthma pump. I have asthma.”

He said Tribble did not respond to his request in any fashion. Worse, Shelley said, he was told to be quiet.

“I was very respectful; I gave the officers my utmost respect until I was told to ‘Shut the f--- up.’ That’s when it became an altercation. I had asked (Tribble) to go and get the inhaler out of my car because I have a medical condition -- I just didn’t understand,” said Shelley.

At that point, Shelley said, he decided to kick at one of the van’s windows in order to get other deputies’ attention.

“But no one came.”

Shelley also claimed Tribble called him “dirty,” a “bum” and a “drug dealer.”

“It made me feel angry, stereotyped,” said Shelley. “I got more upset and talked more trash.”

But, he said, he never tried to leave his seat, didn’t try to kick the window again and never physically attacked either Tribble or fellow deputy Jimmy Simmons, who was driving. He said he was still handcuffed and behind a closed grate separating him not only from the female sitting in front of him, but the deputies as well.

He admitted to becoming loud and very disrespectful.

“I told the officer he was dumb. I told him when I get out ‘I should go burn your mother and slap the b---- for having you,” Shelley said.

He said he and Tribble continued to trade words, exchange cut downs.

“He said things to me, I said things to him,” said Shelley. “People on the van were laughing at me, but when they started laughing at (Tribble), that’s when it became a problem.”

But he denied making any kind of direct threat on Tribble’s life or the lives of his wife and daughter.

“No, I did not,” he said, answering McGowan. “I told him just because he has a badge and a gun, he’s not untouchable and that if I wanted to find him I could. I said a lot of things. My behavior was inappropriate. Because of the conditions and the way I was feeling, I kind of lost control of my mouth.”

Shelley said he understands now that his words could have been taken as a threat.

McGowan did not ask Shelley about Tribble making an alleged threat of his own.

Two other men arrested that evening, John Scarborough and Jason Heinrichs, both said Friday they heard Tribble say something to Shelley. Scarborough said he was sitting in the very back left seat of the van. He said he could hear Tribble say something to Shelley, but could not understand the words. Heinrichs was also sitting in the back row, but next to the right-hand window. He said Tribble, using Shelley’s name, said “I’ll light you up when we get there.”

Thursday, the lone woman on the van, Maria Padilla, testified that Tribble told Shelley, “You watch when we get to the detention center” and then added either “I’m going to get you” or “I’m gonna kick your a--.”

McGowan, however, went on to when the van arrived at the jail. Shelley said Tribble and Simmons, in turn, got out of the van. Tribble, he said, escorted Padilla off the van.

“Then he opened the ‘cage’ and told me to get the f--- out. I got the f--- out as quickly as I could,” said Shelley. “He blocked my path. I took a step and said ‘What?’ and that’s when he commenced to start assaulting me.”

Shelley said he remembers trying to back away because he had no way to defend himself, but doesn’t remember falling down.

“At the moment, I was in shock and I didn’t notice any pain until I tried to walk. That’s when I realized something was wrong,” said Shelley.

On the video, Tribble finally escorts Shelley to the intake door. There, he is seen striking Shelley three more times.

“I don’t remember those last three strikes … it’s still a blur to me,” said Shelley.

“Were you bleeding?” McGowan asked him.

“Yes, I had several wounds on my leg. My left leg -- I literally had holes in my legs,” Shelley said. “My right leg had cuts and an abrasion and it was broken. Because of the cast, they couldn’t put stitches.”

Shelley said he was treated by a doctor -- Thomas Joseph, of Camden, who testified Thursday -- but hasn’t gone back because he can’t afford to. McGowan ended her direct examination of Shelley by having him get down from the witness stand and roll up his pant legs in order to show the jury his injuries. There were two circular marks on his left leg where the “holes” had been and a small scar on the outside of his right ankle where the leg was broken.

One of Gasser’s earliest questions on cross was whether Shelley remembered a female deputy placing him in a patrol car.

“I was never put in a patrol car, I was put on the van,” Shelley insisted. “As I recall, I was taken from my car, put in cuffs and taken to the van.”

Gasser asked about the alleged handcuff exchange.

“I remember being handcuffed, behind my back. I can’t see there, I don’t have eyes in the back of my head. I don’t know if they were metal or plastic,” said Shelley.

“Isn’t it true you resisted deputies when they exchanged the handcuffs?” Gasser asked.

“I don’t recall it,” answered Shelley.

“You say you only had two beers, but you can’t remember resisting three deputies?”

“I can’t recall being hit 27 times,” Shelley declared, claiming he has been dealing with “mental problems. This is a DUI checkpoint. This is a DUI checkpoint. I am saying to you, sir, that since this incident I haven’t been right and I question everything I believe and know.”

When Gasser asked him if other prisoners would be able to corroborate his testimony, Shelley said, “I can only speak to my testimony.”

And Gasser asked him about the threat he allegedly made to hurt Tribble and his family.

“I do not recall the words you are saying,” Shelley said. “I recall telling him that if I wanted to find him and his family I could.”

“Didn’t you say, ‘The Internet’s a b---- … I’m going to hunt down and hurt your wife, hunt down and hurt your children?’”

“I don’t know. I could have. We were talking trash, we exchanged words.”

“Didn’t you tell Sgt. Tribble you were not going to allow him to escort you off the van? ‘You’re not going to put your f---ing hands on me’?”

“I might have,” answered Shelley, shrugging his shoulders.

He also said he didn’t recall saying -- as Gasser quoted -- “Get your f---ing hands off me, I ain’t going to any f---ing door, get your mother f---ing hands off me” after he stepped off the van.

Shelley said he doesn’t remember Tribble giving him any instructions after getting off the van.

“The first instruction was the baton striking my leg,” he said.

Gasser’s last question referred to a tiny portion of the video right after Shelley gets off the van.

“Isn’t it true you were trying to get out of the handcuffs?”

Shelley leaned in toward the witness box’s microphone and replied, “That is incorrect.”

The trainer

Oddie Tribble’s actions were unjustified.

That was the opinion of Bruce Hancock, an instructor at the S.C. Criminal Justice Academy (CJA) for 23 years. That was especially so, he said, because Shelley was handcuffed when Tribble beat him.

Drake asked what tactical role an asp or baton would have in a case like Shelley’s.

“It would not be used, period, with a restrained individual,” said Hancock. “A baton is an intermediate weapon of control. It’s only used when empty hand control is not effective and the deadly use of force is not appropriate.”

Earlier, Hancock explained a continuum of force theory known as “1+1.” The idea, Hancock said, is that for whatever level of resistance a suspect is offering (“1”), an officer wants to be one step above that (“+1”).

Regardless of the level of force employed, however, it must be justified, he said.

“Force is not admissible just if you’re angry; it’s not for punishment, not just for talking. That would be unacceptable,” Hancock said. “Officers know they have to have tough skin. You can’t be beating up people just because they’re saying something about us or our family.”

He did say, however, that every situation is different -- that variables could come into play that would change an officer’s response.

“Nothing is written in stone. You can’t match up the level of resistance with a level of force, for example, if you’re dealing with a small woman versus a 6 foot 5 inch football player,” Hancock said.

He said new recruits at the CJA are taught what to do about a handcuffed subject who refuses to move.

“First, we would show them how to handle a compliant restrained individual so they know what that’s like. Then we show them how to deal with ‘deadweight,’ which is what we call passive resistance.”

Hancock demonstrated for the jury what he would do in such a case, with SLED Agent Lee Blackmon as the “suspect,” placing him in unlocked handcuffs behind his back. Hancock took Blackman’s right hand and pulled it slightly upward while pressing down on Blackmon’s right elbow. He said the amount of pain should cause a subject to move.

Following a lunch break, Hancock talked about “verbal non-compliance,” saying that’s the level of resistance Shelley appeared to be offering in the video.

“They’re either making threatening remarks or stating they won’t comply,” said Hancock, or simply not moving.

Again, Hancock said the way to deal with verbal non-compliance varies depending on whether the suspect is restrained or not. It would also depend, he said, on whether they were in a controlled environment -- such as the sally port -- or out on a city street.

“We normally train (officers) to try to verbally defuse the situation and call for back up first,” said Hancock. “Then, to start over with verbal commands. If they still refuse to move, then use physical force.”

Hancock said the CJA trains officers to use only the real amount of force necessary -- “necessary” being the key word, he said -- depending on what type of resistance their encountering from a suspect.

“And where would you teach officers to strike a detainee in Mr. Shelley’s situation?” Drake asked again.

“First of all, we don’t teach them to strike a restrained detainee,” Hancock reiterated. “Now, if we have a detainee that’s not restrained, it may be our policy to strike.”

With FBI Special Agent Boeman Wong as the “suspect” this time, Drake had Hancock demonstrate where leg strikes should be made. In each case, Hancock chose a muscle mass and/or nerve cluster.

“I’m trying to put him on the ground; get him off his feet so I can control him,” said Hancock.

He indicated the likely reason Shelley’s ankle was broken was that Tribble’s strikes were on that more vulnerable portion of the leg, not the muscle mass/nerve cluster areas.

Drake also asked Hancock what he thought of the level of resistance Shelley was offering.

“From what I see -- I don’t have any audio; I can’t hear what was said -- it appears once he comes off the vehicle, he appears to lose his balance toward his left. It looks like he almost fell as he stepped down. I didn’t see him pulling away. From there, I don’t see the resistance that’s specified through some of the statements,” said Hancock.

At best, he said, it appeared Shelley was lifting his leg and moving away from Tribble only to evade being struck.

“I pretty much saw a lot of strikes coming in from different angles,” he said.

And would it have really mattered if Shelley had threatened Tribble? Would that have changed Hancock’s opinion?

“The answer is no,” Hancock testified. “It would not justify taking an impact weapon out, even if he was refusing to get out of the vehicle. Like I said, we don’t use that on people who are restrained.”

“Were the strikes tactically helpful in moving Mr. Shelley toward the detention center door?” asked Drake as the government ran a clip of the sally port video.

“No, ma’am. From a procedural standpoint, it would have the opposite result, especially in terms of the number of times. It’s not going to make him walk, it’s going to make him go down,” said Hancock.

On cross, Gasser got Hancock to admit that verbal non-compliance could escalate to “anything.”

“That’s why I said earlier … it depends on other variables in the situation,” Hancock said.

Gasser noted that in this case there was one female prisoner; eight other men; only one other deputy, Simmons, 62; and KCDC staff whose policy is not to leave the intake area.

“Yes, sir, but those deputies were in possession of a radio to call for backup. It (also) makes a difference if the prisoner’s restrained and in a controlled environment,” said Hancock.

He said while officers need to be able to make “snap decisions,” that’s not what the CJA teaches.

“We teach them to disengage so they can make better decisions. (Otherwise,) they might lose the fight or not pull out the right weapon or not call for enough backup,” Hancock said.

Gasser fixated on Hancock’s earlier statement that hearing what was being said in the sally port was not as critical to him as what he saw.

“Not being able to hear, that doesn’t matter to you?” asked Gasser.

“From that standpoint, it wouldn’t matter because even if (Shelley) was making verbal threats, it wouldn’t have given (Tribble) justification to strike him with a baton,” Hancock answered. “There’s always exceptions. If I were facing a serious threat, then yes, I would use the baton.”

Hancock did agree however, that drugs and alcohol may make things more dangerous because suspects may not feel pain the way those not under their influence might.

The corrections officers

The government rested its case Monday morning after calling its final witnesses. A four-and-a-half-year veteran of the KCDC, Cpl. Angie Threatt told McGowan she was working with the 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. shift at the KCDC with officer Jonathan Harris. It was her responsibility to open and close the jail’s sally port gate when the van arrived.

Threatt said she was able to see into the sally port from her intake desk, but didn’t remember the first detainee, a woman named Padilla, being taken off the van. The next thing she knew, Tribble was striking Shelley with his asp.

“I remember saying, ‘I can’t believe this is happening,’” said Threatt.

She appeared very upset recalling the incident, coming to tears and accepting a box of tissues from McGowan. Threatt said she did not know how many times Tribble struck Shelley, but said it was “numerous times.”

“I picked up my radio and called my (lieutenant) to come to intake,” Threatt said. “I did that because I knew the situation was getting out of hand and knew Mr. Shelley needed help.”

Threatt said she had never, in her four and a half years at the jail, seen a deputy or police officer strike a handcuffed prisoner.

“It was the most horrifying thing I’ve ever seen,” she said.

Threatt remembered looking up at her security monitors, watching for KCDC Lt. James Robinson as he responded to her call.

“The L.T. got into intake and I ran to him and told him that Mr. Shelley had been beaten,” Threatt said.

She said Robinson went to the intake door and told Tribble he would have to seek medical attention for Shelley.

McGowan asked Threatt if she’d been trained in the use of force. She also asked if Threatt had access to a baton at the KCDC.

“No, there are other ways to stop a detainee from resisting -- pressure points and way to use your hands,” Threatt said. “We do not use batons; we don’t have them here at all.”

McGowan asked if Threatt was ever able to see Tribble’s face. She said she had eye contact with him for a second.

“He looked like a mad man,” she said.

Robinson said Threatt sounded “panicked” when she called and was “trembling” when he arrived. She told him what she’d seen and he decided to see for himself what was going on.

“I opened the intake (control room) door and started toward the outside door leading from intake,” said Robinson. “While going toward the door, I saw the baton come down one time. I opened the intake door and saw Shelley on the concrete. Sgt. Tribble was standing up and his baton was in his hand.”

Robinson said Tribble asked Shelley to get up and that Shelley said he couldn’t, that his leg was hurt.

“That’s when I told Sgt. Tribble he would have to get him some medical attention before I could accept him at the detention center,” he said.

Robinson said he saw Shelley again later that night -- in a wheelchair when he was brought back to the jail.

The deputies

In an effort to assist Judge Currie in determining what portions of testimony to allow the jury to hear, the defense started its case by proffering testimony from a current Kershaw County investigator and a former deputy. Proffered testimony is given outside of the jury’s view.

In her proffered testimony, KCSO Investigator Katherine Iseman said she was working at a routine license checkpoint at the intersection of Hasty Road and Haile Street when Shelley pulled up.

“I approached the car and asked for his information. He initially didn’t say anything. He had his hands on the wheel and was looking straight forward,” said Iseman.

She said Shelley gave a false name but admitted he did not have a license. Iseman said she also got close enough to smell the odor of alcohol coming from Shelley’s person. While running what turned out to be Shelley’s false information, Iseman followed former Sheriff Steve McCaskill’s orders to have another deputy standing by because she was early in her pregnancy; Iseman said she is due in two weeks.

When she returned, she had Shelley step out of the car; she immediately noticed he had a blank look.

“His eyes were really red and watery,” Iseman said. When she began to ask him questions to verify his true information, she said his voice was “choppy … like he was sounding off, military style.”

Iseman said she placed Shelley under arrest, placed him in metal handcuffs and searched him, turning up a bag with 2 ounces of marijuana in his pocket. An open bottle of gin had already been spotted in the car. Iseman then took Shelley and placed him in the back of her patrol car.

“He asked for a cigarette,” she said.

“Did you give him one?” asked defense attorney Greg Harris.

“No … (and) he got pretty upset; he couldn’t understand why. He said, ‘Why can’t I have a f---ing cigarette,’” said Iseman.

On cross by McGowan, Iseman said the marijuana was what she called “junk” or “trash” marijuana -- “not high quality.” She repeated that she smelled alcohol on Shelley, but never mentioned the smell of marijuana.

She said Shelley wasn’t cooperative.

Judge Currie would only allow Iseman to speak on matters dealing with what she actually heard, saw and smelled -- what she observed of Shelley’s condition, but not the underlying evidence behind any charges.

Former KCSO Deputy Brandon Brown was a narcotics officer in Fairfield and Kershaw counties before returning to road duty with the KCSO. During his proffered testimony, Brown said he was the deputy who assisted Iseman with Shelley. He, too, said he was close enough to smell alcohol on Shelley, but also said he could smell the odor of marijuana. During this stage of his testimony, Brown said those smells, plus Shelley’s behavior and appearance, told him Shelley was intoxicated and/or under the influence of marijuana.

Judge Currie would not let him make that conclusion in front of the jury.

Iseman and Brown were followed by KCSO Cpl. Miles Taylor, a nine-year veteran of the force and shift supervisor. He told defense attorney Zack Atkinson it was he who moved Shelley from Iseman’s patrol car to the van. It was there, he said, where the cuff exchange was made -- but not without some trouble.

“He had his hands cuffed behind his back,” said Taylor, standing to demonstrate for the jury. “He spun away from the officer trying change out his cuffs … spun between the officers trying to keep the cuffs from being changed out.”

Taylor said things got bad enough -- Shelley acting belligerent, using vulgar language and trying to pull away -- that he and Tribble had to pin him against a rail fence in order to change out the cuffs.

But under cross from federal prosecutor Christopher Lomax, Taylor had to admit he wasn’t at the sally port and couldn’t testify to anything that happened there.

The passenger

Someone who could was Victor Plata, a 22-year-old Hispanic man who has lived in Camden for eight years. The plumber, who travels back and forth from North Carolina to work, was coming through what turned out to be one of two checkpoints the KCSO was working in the area Aug. 5. He admitted to Atkinson he didn’t have his driver’s license that evening. He was stopped, arrested, handcuffed.

While Plata didn’t think the van was particularly hot, he said Shelley obviously did.

“He said it was too hot … that he couldn’t breathe,” said Plata. “He said, ‘Hey, amigo, muy caliente.’”

Plata said he was already sitting on the second row by the left window with an older man sitting next to him; Shelley had been placed on the end of the row, immediately behind the separation grate.

“He kept telling the officers, ‘It’s too hot, let me out.’ But they don’t say anything. So he turns to the window next to him, pushing the old man into me. I tell him to stop, but he hits the window four, five times all at the same time,” Plata testified.

Plata remembered Shelley threatening Tribble’s family.

“The officer (Tribble) told him to be quiet, to calm down,” said Plata. “He started to say, ‘I know your wife, I know your kids, I know where you live.’ The officer turned back and said something, but I don’t know what.”

Plata did say that Shelley didn’t threaten Tribble himself. He believed, however, that Shelley was mad, that it was difficult to tell whether he was seriously threatening Tribble’s family or just joking.

Once at the jail, Plata said, Shelley was quiet, but didn’t want to get off the van. He said Shelley asked the officers whether they wanted him to come out of the van backward. It was explained later in the trial that the van’s “cage” door is only 14 to 15 inches wide.

Holding his own wrist, Plata said one of the officers took Shelley by the arm. He didn’t hear anything rude but then saw some of the strikes Tribble made on Shelley’s legs.

On cross from Lomax, Plata said he didn’t hear any yelling, from either Shelley or Tribble, as Shelley stepped off the van.

“At this point, you saw the defendant pull out this device?” asked Lomax, showing the asp to Plata.

“Yes,” said Plata, who said he saw Tribble swing the device down, snapping it open and then striking Shelley more than once.

“What was Shelley doing?” asked Lomax.

“Nothing,” Plata replied.

“Was he hit a lot of times?”

“Yes,” answered Plata and then, holding his hand above his head, demonstrated said Tribble struck Shelley “hard.”

He also described the moment at the end of the incident where, as seen on the recording, Tribble appears to slam Shelley against the van’s hood. Plata said the van shook with a loud thump.

During Lomax’s cross examination, Plata reiterated that he had not heard Shelley threaten Tribble’s own life.

Atkinson reminded Plata he had met not only with the FBI about the case, but with Atkinson in his office Saturday. He asked Plata if he remembered, specifically, what Shelley said to Tribble on the van.

“‘I know your family, your wife, your kids. I will kill you if you push me the wrong way,’” Plata finally remembered.

The partner

It was evident from the start that former deputy Jimmy Simmons -- sporting a full beard and wearing a leather jacket -- was having difficulty hearing.

Gasser immediately addressed that point, having Simmons explain that he suffered a mini-stroke in 2005 several months after experiencing a heart attack. The mini-stroke left him blind in the left eye and at least 55 percent deaf in the left ear. Despite that, he continued to work with the KCSO until he was fired after the sally port incident.

Simmons said he started his law enforcement career as a reserve officer in 1978 working for the city of Camden and, later, Kershaw County. He took advantage of CJA training in 2000 and began to work as a full-time deputy with the KCSO in January 2002.

He said he and Tribble, who both worked security at the Kershaw County Courthouse, first encountered Shelley when they were asked to return to the Haile Street/Hasty Road checkpoint after picking up those arrested at another stop. He said Taylor had his arms on Shelley as he brought him over and immediately turned him around in order to switch the metal handcuffs for the plastic flexi-cuffs from the van.

“(Shelley) brought his left hand up when the steel cuff was taken off,” said Simmons. “I told him to put it back down. The gentleman’s larger than I am and it took force to bring his arm down.”

Simmons said once they had the cuffs switched out it was he who placed Shelley on the van -- a necessary step because of the vehicle’s layout.

“As I turned him around and started moving him forward, he backed up on me. He said he wanted to make a phone call. I told him he could maybe do that at the jail,” said Simmons.

After getting Shelley in his seat, he said, Tribble went to confer with Iseman. It was then that Shelley tried to kick out the window, he said. And, said Simmons, he was using a lot of foul language.

“He was hollering, cursing, raising cane, just generally raising all hell about the fact he was under arrest and that the cuffs were too tight,” he said. “He was saying things like, ‘You mother f---er, take these off me, they’re too tight.’ But I don’t really pay much attention to that kind of thing.”

Simmons said that kind of behavior continued throughout the trip to the jail.

“I heard him say, ‘All you mother f---ers are the same’ and calling us sons of b----es. I can’t remember all the words,” said Simmons.

Gasser asked him if he heard Shelley threatening Tribble.

“I only heard part of the statement, something about finding his family,” said Simmons, but admitted “I can’t remember if it was from Mr. Shelley or both of them,” that Tribble may have repeated part of what Shelley had said.

He also said Tribble told Shelley to “tone it down” because a lady -- Padilla -- was present. Shelley just continued to “mouth off,” he said.

Simmons claimed that in all his years of law enforcement, he’d never heard a subject threaten an officer’s family.

“With you training and experience, did that put you on a higher level of alert?” asked Gasser.

“Yes,” replied Simmons.

He also claimed Shelley made one more threat to Tribble as they approached the jail: “I’ll get your a-- as soon as I get out of this place.”

Simmons said that once they arrived and Padilla was removed, Shelley was asked to exit the van. He claimed Shelley refused.

“He said, ‘I’m not getting off the van’ or something to that effect.’”

Simmons said at some point soon after that, Shelley’s right foot moved forward.

“I don’t know if he was kicking … Sgt. Tribble took out the asp and popped it open … I saw some movement on (Shelley’s) part, but I don’t know if he was backing up or pulling away. I have other prisoners … I’m concentrating on,” said Simmons. “All I know is that he wasn’t obeying verbal commands.”

Simmons said he saw several of the strikes and that they were all on the lower part of the legs.

Why, asked Gasser, didn’t Simmons intervene in some way.

“From what I saw and heard, it wasn’t indicated, based on the training of using an asp on the lower part of the body,” answered Simmons.

On the recording, Simmons is seen twice pushing Shelley away. He said he did so to keep Shelley from reentering the van -- that those remaining on the van were his No. 1 priority.

On cross, Simmons admitted to Lomax that despite Shelley’s behavior on the van neither he nor Tribble asked for backup to meet them at the jail. He also said he couldn’t be absolutely sure what was said on the van.

“Could something have been lost?” asked Lomax.

“Yes,” Simmons answered.

Lomax asked Simmons how much time went by between the time Shelley was asked to get off the van until he actually complied with the request. Simmons said it was “all within 3 to 5 minutes.”

“Would it surprise you, sir, to know that it was only 18 seconds?” asked Lomax.

Lomax had the recording cued up to 8:30:50 p.m. when Padilla is removed from the van. The video then ran to 8:31:03 p.m. when Shelley can be seen through the open van door’s window -- 13 seconds.

“He refused to get off? Your testimony is that he never complied in the sally port?”asked Lomax. “Between the time he steps off the van and the time of the first strike, you claim there was movement?”

“Yes, but I don’t know what.”

Lomax asked him how long Shelley was non-compliant. Simmons said he couldn’t say off the top of his head, and Lomax had the video start up again.

At 8:31:06, Shelley’s foot is on the ground; the first strike is seen between 8:31:06 and 8:31:08. Lomax remarked that, at most, Shelley was non-compliant for five seconds.

“So, Mr. Shelley had five seconds to comply with whatever verbal commands -- is that what you see?” he asked.

“Yes,” answered Simmons.

Lomax asked Simmons if he saw Tribble strike Shelley while he was on the floor. Yes, he answered, but he didn’t know what Tribble may have been reacting to. He admitted the strikes while Shelley was down “would seem improper to me.”

Lomax zeroed in on a statement Simmons gave to SLED and the KCSO. Judge Currie allowed Lomax to take a copy of the statement to Simmons, who read it back to the jury:

“Part of the time, I went into the jail -- two or three minutes -- to get those people into the jail.”

He said at the time that’s what he thought he did.

“But that can’t be correct,” he admitted. “I didn’t lie, but that’s what I remembered that night.”

Simmons spent several minutes silently looking over the SLED statement, finally repeating that it was “not a correct statement at that time.” He also admitted he never went back to SLED to correct the statement.

The accused

Harris had “Sgt. Tribble,” as he repeatedly called the accused, spend a lot of time relating his childhood as the son of a Vietnam War veteran, his own time in the U.S. Army and law enforcement career. After graduating from Columbia’s Keenan High School in 1978, and after a short stint working for a ball bearings company, he joined the Army, moving from Ft. Jackson to Ft. Meade, Va.; Hawaii; and Kansas. But after six years, his wife got tired of traveling. Tribble was honorably discharged and they returned to Columbia.

In December 1986, Tribble was hired with the S.C. Department of Corrections (DOC) where he was first assigned to Kirkland Correctional Institution. Tribble was promoted over the years, but knew he wanted something more.

He wanted to be a sheriff someday.

So, he went back to school and applied to the Richland County Sheriff’s Department (RCSD), but was told he needed four years of college. Instead, he went to work for Richland County’s detention center.

Finally, in 1997, he successfully joined the RCSD as a public safety officer and was later assigned as a road deputy. He was then hired as one of Eastover’s first police officers. He joined the KCSO in 2000 starting as a road deputy. Tribble was later an investigator and -- after a stint as a U.N. peacekeeper in Kosovo -- became part of a community relations program at the KCSO before being promoted to head of Kershaw County Courthouse security.

Throughout that long career, he received training, including on the use of force and the asp/baton. Harris asked him to define the KCSO’s understanding of that concept.

“That any type of force deputies use be the minimum necessary to contain the situation,” said Tribble.

He said his best training was on the job out in the field.

Tribble started Aug. 5 at 6:30 a.m., assigned to an 11-hour shift at the courthouse. He had already known from earlier in the week that he was going to be part of a special after-hours assignment.

“The sheriff had gotten reports of speeders and he wanted to be proactive,” said Tribble of the decision to set up roadblocks on Haile Street.

He said the first prisoners were placed on the van at the first checkpoint around 6:45 p.m. Around 8 p.m., he and Simmons moved to the second checkpoint where they first encountered Charles Shelley.

Tribble said Shelley was already in metal handcuffs when he was brought to their van. At Harris’ request, Tribble got up and demonstrated, with hands behind his back, how he said Shelley moved one way and then another in an effort to keep them from switching to flexi-cuffs.

“We pushed (Shelley) to a white sort of picket fence on the corner to keep him stationary,” said Tribble. “When we were doing the cuffs he said ‘What? What?’ at which point I knew he was under the influence of some type of substance.”

Tribble said Iseman informed him Shelley was under the influence of “alcohol and intoxicants.” He said as they prepared to leave, Shelley became more irate.

“He said, ‘You all think you’re all sh--.’”

“Did he ask for his inhaler?” asked Harris.

“Yes, sir.”

“Did you get it?”

“No, sir. I’m not allowed to administer medication. If there’s a problem, I would call EMS,” said Tribble.

During the ride to the jail, Tribble said, Shelley made comments like “you ain’t worth mother f---ing sh--” and called him a “token nigger.” He said Shelley had “lost respect” at that point.

“My dad fought in Vietnam and that word was used pretty often,” he said. “My dad taught us not to use that word as a joke or even with friends. I took it as a racial word.”

Tribble said he took everything about Shelley -- his appearance, use of foul language and threats -- as a “red flag;” that Shelley was going to be a problem at the jail.

“I informed him I would be the one getting him off the van. He said, ‘Don’t f--- with me, you don’t know who I am. I just got out of prison.’ I took that as a greater threat,” said Tribble.

And then, he said, Shelley began to threaten his family.

“He said, ‘The Internet is a mother f---er. I can find anybody. I’ll find your wife; I’ll find your daughter.”

Tribble said he felt that Shelley would be a problem at the jail. As they continued to drive, he said, Shelley had more choice words.

“He continued to say we were ‘punk a--’ deputies. ‘I told you, when we get there, don’t put your mother f---ing hand on me. I don’t need you to help me off the van,’” said Tribble.

Then, on Bramblewood Plantation Road -- the street where the jail is located -- Tribble said the conversation escalated again.

“He said, “Don’t f--- with me; you better ask about who I am,’” Tribble said. “I took those as threats. That’s what put me on alert. He had threatened me, my wife, my family. He continued to get into a rage.”

Harris stopped there for the day, saying he planned to have Tribble go through the sally port video Tuesday morning and then bring in an expert witness. The defense was expected to rest by Tuesday afternoon, followed by closing arguments from both sides.

Judge Currie said she hoped the case could be given to the jury by late Tuesday afternoon.


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