November 29, 2003 - The Post and Courier (Charleston, SC)

Police Could be Charged in School Raid

By Herb Frazier, The Post and Courier Staff

Solicitor Ralph Hoisington said Friday that he will decide next week whether Goose Creek police broke any laws Nov. 5 when officers raided Stratford High School with guns drawn during a search for drugs.

The solicitor said he will make that decision after reviewing a 200-page report prepared by the State Law Enforcement Division that he received this week.

"If there was no legal justification for the police action, then what was done could be considered an assault and battery," Hoisington said.

"I will try to get some definitive resolution of it next week," said Hoisington, adding that he will share the SLED report with the U.S. Justice Department.

During the raid, which was recorded on the school's surveillance camera, 14 officers isolated 107 students in a main hallway and briefly restrained 12 to 14 students with plastic handcuffs as others cringed when three officers drew their weapons.

The raid has produced a firestorm of protest from some parents and civil rights groups while others have supported it.

Hoisington said he will review the SLED report Monday with Goose Creek Mayor Michael Heitzler.
Heitzler said that a criminal charge against one or more of his officers is a "daunting possibility."

"But I hope that will not be the case," he said. "But if the solicitor thinks some crime has been committed, I will take the personnel action with the police officer he believes was involved in criminal activity.

"I will take my lead from the solicitor."

Three days after the raid, Hoisington asked SLED to prepare a report. The report, which does not offer a conclusion, includes interviews with about 30 teachers and students. It also includes the video recording from the school's surveillance camera and a video recording made by a Goose Creek police officer, Hoisington said.

Although some students did not want to give statements to SLED, Hoisington said the agency prepared a comprehensive report.

Hoisington said a fine line exists between what can be considered prudent and imprudent police action. The action during the raid, he said, possibly could be justified.

The raid was staged based on school officials' suspicions about marijuana sales at the Berkeley County campus after they received reports from students and teachers and viewed camera recordings.

During the raid, a police dog sniffed drug residue on 12 book bags but found no drugs. No one was arrested.

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