In part of an investigative report on racism in South Carolina’s police departments by the Washington Post, Radley Balko has been exposing a series of horrifying police incidents that have taken place in the state.
His latest article in the series, The Watch covers the case of Kelvin Hayes, a successful business owner in Dorchester County. Hayes has recently settled a lawsuit against the Dorchester County sheriff’s office for a horrid act of brutality against him.
On March 27, 2011, Hayes, who was 52-year-old at the time, was driving with his friend Karen Skipper. Hayes, who is black, was driving Skipper, who is white, back to her house, when the couple passed a roadside traffic stop with multiple police cars.
One of those police cars immediately began pursuing the couple and pulled them over shortly after. Hayes had broken no traffic laws. However, Deputy Tim Knight still pulled them over.
Knight would claim that Hayes failed to turn on his blinker in time to make a turn. According to South Carolina state law, the blinker must be deployed at least 100 feet prior to making a turn.
Knight claimed that Hayes only turned it on 20 feet out. But a subsequent review of Knight’s own dashcam revealed that Hayes not only turned on his blinker well before the 100-foot mark but at a distance five times greater.
The entire reason for the stop was now unlawful. However, Knight was on the war path and he knew, that without a doubt, this man was a criminal.
As the Post reports:
It’s at about the 1:29:00 mark in the video that things begin to deteriorate. Knight asks Hayes whether he can search his person. Hayes understandably objects. He asks whether Knight plans to give him a ticket. Knight says, “I don’t know.” Hayes responds that he doesn’t see why he needs to be searched if he isn’t getting a ticket. At this point, Hayes has been out of his vehicle for several minutes, has not appeared angry or threatening and has completely complied with Knight’s instructions. But his objection to being searched appears to irritate Knight. A few seconds later, Knight asks Hayes whether he has a mint in his mouth. Hayes says he does.
Knight would later testify that at this point in the stop, he believed Hayes was engaged in some sort of criminal activity. From the video, it’s hard to fathom how. Knight later claimed he saw a plastic baggie in Knight’s mouth, though that isn’t at all apparent in the video. Knight then demands that Hayes open his mouth so he can inspect it. Hayes again asks whether he’s getting a ticket and objects to Knight searching his mouth. At that point, a clearly agitated Knight says, “You take that out of your mouth right now or I will choke you out.” He then grabs Hayes by the lapels of his shirt and says again: “I will choke you out right now. Take that out your mouth.”
By this time, another deputy, Kieth Hunt arrives on the scene. As the dashcam shows, Hayes is thrown to the hood of the vehicle and then pulled out of the view of the dashcam by Knight. The audio records Hayes, who is only 140 pounds crying out in pain as the 270 pound Knight lays into him.
In the lawsuit, Hayes alleges that Hunt held him down while Knight beat him. By the time Hayes reappears on the video, he is handcuffed and covered in blood.
One would assume at this point that Knight would concede he was wrong about Hayes having drugs, dish out the standard charges of resisting or assault and haul Hayes to jail. However, one would be wrong.
This tyrant officer just knew, deep down in his gut, that this successful owner of a tile and flooring company was a hardened criminal drug pusher. So, instead of bringing Hayes to jail, he brought him to the hospital to receive forced medical procedures to search for drugs.
According to state law, medical personnel can only forcibly draw blood to test for HIV or hepatitis B if the person had been convicted of a sex crime, or has exposed others to bodily fluids during the commission of a crime. Hayes met none of this criteria, but Knight convinced the hospital staff to go much further than a simple blood test.
Hayes was forced on to a hospital bed as the staff held him down to draw his blood. He was tested for cocaine, HIV, and hep B. He was then given an X-ray, to see if he swallowed the non-existent bag, a CT scan, and an EKG. All of this was done to him without his consent.
In spite of the myriad of unethical medical violations carried out against Hayes, police and hospital staff found nothing. Hayes had no drugs in his system, and the scans revealed that he had not swallowed any mythical bag of drugs.
Hayes was then thrown in a cage where he would stay until the next day.
When the prosecutor finally got around to watching the dashcam video, all charges were immediately dismissed.
In spite of Dorchester county paying out a settlement to Hayes, and in spite of the damning evidence against Knight and Hunt, neither of the two officers were ever disciplined. And, in fact, Knight was promoted, received awards, and is now the head of security for a local school district.