Originally created 07/13/01

Aiken County officers settle wrongdoing suits



AIKEN - Two lawsuits accusing sheriff's deputies in Aiken County of wrongdoing have been settled by the sheriff's office before they reached trial, court records show.

In one suit, an elderly Gloverville man accused deputies of excessive force and assault when officers came to his house to arrest his son. In the second, unrelated suit, an Aiken County man said he was falsely arrested and jailed on a bogus shoplifting charge.

The settlement amounts were not disclosed, and the sheriff's office declined comment on the cases.

In one suit, Gloverville resident Kendrell Barton said he was injured by an out-of-control deputy who came to his house about midnight in 1999 to serve a warrant on his son for child support violations. Mr. Barton heard someone "banging down my door," grabbed his rifle, which was sitting next to the door, and was soon tackled by an officer, Mr. Barton said.

"I'm an old man - 86 years old," he said Thursday. "Am I gonna fight? I can't hardly walk."

According to court documents, then-Lt. Cecil Posey and Sgt. Don Henry identified themselves as sheriff's officials when they went to Mr. Barton's Myrtle Street home in Gloverville. The officers said they were there to serve a warrant on Douglas Ray Barton, but the elder Mr. Barton made it clear he did not intend to let them in.

Mr. Barton, in a court deposition, said he grabbed his gun because the men were kicking his screen door.

"I felt like taking the butt end and bust their head open or whatever," he said.

When officers pointed their guns at him and ordered him to put down the rifle, Mr. Barton said, he became more upset. He said he told the deputies: "Shoot me. You ain't got the guts to shoot me."

Mr. Barton eventually put the gun down, but Sgt. Henry lunged at him when the elderly man moved toward the gun again.

Mr. Barton was arrested for interfering with a police officer, and he was taken to the hospital and checked out after complaining of chest pains. He also suffered bruising to his right side and leg.

The charge was later dropped, Mr. Barton said.

Mr. Barton, a World War II veteran, is hard of hearing and suffers from heart problems, his suit stated. He carried the gun for protection in the high-crime neighborhood, according to his lawsuit. He accused the sheriff's office or using excessive force and sued for reimbursement of medical costs related to the assault.

As for the warrant, the younger Mr. Barton said Thursday that he had already paid the child support and the warrant was a mistake.

In the second suit, the sheriff's office and Gurley's Supermarket settled a lawsuit brought by Darryl Bell, who sued over his arrest for shoplifting last year.

Mr. Bell said he bought a pack of cigarettes from a Gurley's store Feb. 9, 2000. The sheriff's office arrested him for shoplifting "despite receiving evidence prior to arrest that Plaintiff has paid for the cigarettes and after refusing to review cash register tapes to determine if Plaintiff had purchased the cigarettes," the suit stated.

The shoplifting charge was later dismissed. In his lawsuit, Mr. Bell said he suffered emotional distress from being arrested.

Reach Greg Rickabaugh at (803) 279-6895 or greg.rickabaugh@augustachronicle.com.