Source: Post and Courier, The (Charleston, SC)
Author: Phillip Caston Of The Post and Courier Staff
Published: Saturday, November 22, 2003
Copyright: 2003 Evening Post Publishing Co.
Contact: [email protected]
Justice Department to consider findings in deciding if civil rights were violated.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation has begun a preliminary investigation of both the recent Stratford High School drug raid in Goose Creek and the shooting death of a man by North Charleston police earlier this month, officials confirmed Friday.
The findings will be forwarded to the U.S. Justice Department, which will look at whether civil rights were violated in either case.
Goose Creek police spokeswoman Casey Fletcher acknowledged that the FBI was conducting a preliminary investigation of the Nov. 5 drug raid, but said the department could not comment on it at this time. The Goose Creek Police Department will issue a statement sometime next week, she said.
North Charleston City Attorney Brady Hair said Friday night that the FBI's decision to perform a preliminary investigation into the Nov. 7 shooting of Asberry Wylder came as a result of Mayor Keith Summey's request that the Justice Department review the case.
"We asked them last week to take a look at it, and they've agreed to forward it on to the civil rights division in Washington," Hair said.
Summey could not be reached for comment Friday night.
Goose Creek police officers stormed Stratford High School with guns drawn in an attempted drug raid early on Nov. 5. The scene was caught on the school's video cameras, sparking a national outcry against the department's use of force. In addition, some people expressed concern that black students were targeted.
In an unrelated incident two days later, North Charleston police officers shot and killed 41-year-old Asberry Wylder on Rivers Avenue during Friday afternoon rush hour after Wylder shoplifted some meat from a grocery store and reportedly attempted to rob another business. While several witnesses claimed Wylder, a black man, was shot a second time after being handcuffed and beaten, North Charleston police denied that and said he was shot twice after he stabbed an officer with a knife. The officer wore a protective vest and was not injured.
The witness statements about Wylder's death provoked outcries from the Rainbow/Push Coalition, the New York-based Congress of Racial Equality and the state chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
The organizations also expressed concern about the Stratford drug raid.
Mayor Summey, seeking to avoid any appearance of a cover-up, asked the Justice Department to investigate the police shooting alongside the State Law Enforcement Division.
Wylder's family, meanwhile, retained attorney Jack Cordray and one of the area's high-profile law firms, Motley Rice, to conduct its own investigation.
The purpose of a preliminary investigation conducted by the FBI is to determine whether there is enough indication of criminal wrongdoing to prompt a full investigation, according to Kathleen Murphy, spokeswoman for the Columbia FBI office.
"We can get involved based on our own facts," Murphy said. "We try to investigate to see if there is any validity to the claims of wrongdoing."
The FBI may intervene in a case for a number of reasons, one being to see if anyone's civil rights were violated, Murphy said.
If such violations are found, the Justice Department could sue, seeking court orders to reform police departments, according to the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994.
Two representatives of the Rev. Jesse Jackson and the Rainbow/PUSH coalition will attend a march today that begins near the scene of Wylder's shooting on Rivers Avenue and will end at North Charleston City Hall, according to Elder James Johnson of the coalition.
Parents of Stratford students will attend the march, as well, and two representatives will speak to participants, Johnson said.
Jackson is currently organizing a protest march for December in regard to both incidents, and he plans to attend, Johnson said.
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