Originally created 12/20/97

Judge to take lawsuit



AIKEN -- A federal lawsuit over a police raid that netted Kool-Aid and the arrests of nine teens could be headed for federal court in Charleston in January.

All charges against the teens were dropped in October 1995 when a jug of Kool-Aid described in a search warrant as "PJ alcoholic beverage" turned out to have no alcohol.

Five of the teens and their parents filed a lawsuit Oct. 11, 1996, accusing city and county police of false arrests, excessive force and violation of the constitution's ban against unreasonable search and seizure.

The case was assigned to U.S. District Judge Sol Blatt in Charleston. Court clerks in Columbia and Charleston said Judge Charles Simons Jr., who would have heard the case in Aiken, removed himself from the case.

Judge Simons was out of his office late Friday and couldn't be reached for comment.

Court officials in Columbia and Charleston confirmed Friday that the case is on Judge Blatt's trial docket for January. However, no firm date has been set. Lawyers are scheduled to meet Monday, possibly to consider a trial date, court clerks said.

The lawsuit was filed by David Johnson; Robert W. Johnson IV through his guardian ad litem, Michelle Johnson; Nicole Wilson through her guardian ad litem, Vicki Woodward; David Clarke through his guardian ad litem, Patty Clarke; and Amanda Vickers through her guardian ad litem, Donna Vickers. A guardian ad litem is someone appointed to watch out for a child's interests.

Defendants include Aiken Public Safety Director Carrol Busbee, Aiken County Sheriff's Maj. Jody Rowland and city public safety Officers Truxton Umsted, Rodney Mills, Craig Burgess, H.V. Morrison, Mike Durell, Bob Besley, C.W. Clark and Karl Odenthal.

A drug task force, acting on a tip from a 14-year-old runaway and two other teens, raided an apartment on Stone Drive shortly before 9 p.m. on Oct. 6, 1995, according to the suit.

The trio told police they had been to the apartment and "knew the South Side Crypts were there," the lawsuit states. The teens were released and no charges were filed against them.

A search warrant indicated police expected to find marijuana, cocaine, crack, money and weapons at the apartment. But parents said police found their children drinking Kool-Aid, eating Chinese food and watching the video Under Siege.

Police failed to knock and announce their presence, the suit claims. Instead, they threw open the door and tossed a shock grenade that hit Amanda Vickers.

"The defendants had their weapons drawn, their identities concealed by masks and they were using abusive language," according to the suit.

Mr. Busbee asked the teens to sign release forms agreeing not to sue in exchange for dropping the charges. But the suit states they refused and the charges were dropped anyway. A lawsuit represents only one viewpoint.