Originally created 08/18/99

Police stop comes under attack

AIKEN -- Jimmy Green wants to meet face to face with Sheriff Howard Sellers to talk to him about his son.

The father of 11-year-old Brandon Green appeared before Aiken County Council on Tuesday night to voice his concern about an incident that happened in mid-July on South Carolina Highway 302.

Brandon was one of three black youths who mistakenly were stopped by Aiken County sheriff's deputies as they searched for a 37-year-old black suspect. Brandon and two teen-age cousins were ordered out of their car at gunpoint, handcuffed and forced to lie face down on the roadway.

"They really were out of control with the young people," Mr. Green told the council during the public comment portion of Tuesday night's meeting.

The sheriff's office has stated that the young men were detained in a high-risk traffic stop, and officers used appropriate procedures.

"Given the nature of the offenses and out of concern for their personal safety, the deputies conducted an appropriate traffic stop," the sheriff's office said in an official statement released shortly after the incident.

A 17-year security officer, formerly with Wackenhut and now a lieutenant with Regent Security Services, Mr. Green said he was upset at the way "the sheriff's department is treating our young people."

He said he presented his concerns to the council as information.

But council members Lawana McKenzie and Joel Randall say they believe Mr. Green's story also needs to get the attention of the Aiken County Sheriff's Office, though it is unclear what action county council can take in the matter because the sheriff's office is an independent agency.

"Mr. Green deserves a face-to-face meeting with the sheriff. Your side of the story should be told to elected officials," Mrs. McKenzie said.

In other business, Aiken County Administrator Bill Shepherd said that site preparation was on time for the new detention center, and he expected to start seeking bids to build the facility within the next month.

When the $15 million facility is completed, probably in early 2001, it will hold 350 inmates, including 55 women to be housed in a separate pod. But the 100,000-square-foot structure is designed to be expanded to hold up to 500 prisoners, from maximum to minimum security. Currently, 225 inmates are incarcerated in a facility meant to house 117.

"We have used bunk beds to provide for the numbers, but some are sleeping on mattresses on the floor," Mr. Shepherd said.

For a number of years, the county has been criticized by the state Department of Corrections for overcrowded conditions, but a court order never has been issued, Assistant County Administrator Joan Wilson said.

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


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