Originally created 09/19/00

Investigation clears campus officers



AIKEN - Campus police at the University of South Carolina Aiken followed policies and procedure when they handcuffed three basketball players, pointed a gun at one student athlete and made the three lay on the ground during a drug investigation last month, authorities said Monday.

A month after the basketball players complained of harassment, an independent investigation by officials with the Columbia campus has concluded that Officers D.A. Wilson and C.L. Chavous acted properly.

"Policies were followed," school spokeswoman Deidre Martin said Monday in summarizing the report.

Ms. Martin said she was unable to release the actual report, adding, "There's nothing in it that's a bombshell."

But she sent out a news release stating that the officers involved followed policies in the Aug. 22 incident.

"The report also stated that the policies and procedures of the USCA Department of Public Safety are clearly written and adequate to provide officers with sufficient guidance for these types of situations," the release stated.

The incident began when officers found freshman Kristen Mitchell smoking marijuana inside her on-campus apartment at Pacer Downs. She told the officers she had purchased the marijuana from a basketball player, whom she identified.

Officers Wilson and Chavous were waiting for a drug dog to arrive to search the athlete's apartment when they spotted three student athletes who they knew lived in the apartment. According to an incident report, the officers asked the trio to step back on the curb.

Michael Tyler and Eric Dugans obeyed the request, but Areon Atkinson kept walking. The report states that Mr. Atkinson stuck his hand on his crotch area while he walked away, prompting an officer to draw his gun and order the student to remove his hand from his pants. The student also didn't comply with orders to lie down on the ground, the report stated.

No drugs were found, and none of the athletes was arrested. But the athletes complained, prompting interim Chancellor Tom Hallman to ask the Columbia campus to carry out an independent investigation.

The investigation was performed by the Division of Law Enforcement and Safety at the University of South Carolina Columbia, and the probe involved interviews with the athletes and officers involved.

Skip Townsend, the Aiken campus' chief of police, said the investigation is no longer an issue.

"As far as I'm concerned, it's over with," he said. "There is no issue."

Reach Greg Rickabaugh at (803) 279-6895.