Originally created 01/26/99

Lieutenant charged with misdemeanors



AIKEN -- A former Aiken Public Safety lieutenant was charged Monday in what authorities believe was a display of road rage against two black motorists.

Frank Conoly, who is white, was charged by South Carolina's State Law Enforcement Division with assault and battery of a high and aggravated nature, malicious damage to personal property under $1,000 and simple assault.

He was released on a personal recognizance bond and is expected to be booked today at the Aiken County Detention Center.

Each of the three charges is a misdemeanor, SLED spokesman Hugh Munn said.

The veteran officer was fired from the Aiken Department of Public Safety on Jan. 5, two days after he stopped La-Prell Drumming for tailgating him on Whiskey Road while he was off duty. Since the incident, SLED agents have been investigating to determine if the 21 1/2 -year veteran should face criminal charges.

The Rev. David Walker, president of Aiken's NAACP, said the charges against Mr. Conoly, 47, were not what he expected.

"Something isn't right," the Rev. Walker said. "I definitely want a copy of SLED's report."

The local National Association for the Advancement of Colored People branch has been investigating the incident to determine if it may have been a racially motivated attack.

The Rev. Walker was not prepared Monday to make that determination. He plans to talk with the family about the charges and may complete his investigation by the weekend.

Mr. Conoly is accused of smashing Ms. Drumming's car window with his baton and dousing her and her sister, Tammie, with pepper spray. Mr. Conoly was not dressed in full uniform and was driving his personal car. The only visible sign that he might be a police officer was a patch on his left sleeve.

The Drumming sisters have said they never saw the patch and claimed Mr. Conoly never brandished his badge or declared himself a law officer. It was not until the women went to the Public Safety building and saw Mr. Conoly's portrait on the wall that they realized he was an officer.

Mr. Conoly has retained James Whittle of Aiken, who specializes in criminal law, as his attorney. The former officer has filed a formal grievance and plans to move forward with the process in light of the criminal charges.

Chasiti Kirkland can be reached at (803) 279-6895 or scbureau@augustachronicle.com.