- Associated Press - Friday, November 20, 2020

LUGOFF, S.C. (AP) - A South Carolina sheriff has fired a deputy for knocking out a suspect at a rural church, but is defending the conduct of a deputy sued for using excessive force in an unrelated incident.

Kershaw County Sheriff Lee Boan tells WIS-TV that the fired deputy tried to handcuff a man, and knocked him out while pushing him to the ground.

South Carolina Law Enforcement Division Tommy Crosby identified the deputy as Johnathan Goldsmith and said the agency is investigating.

Boan though, said a lawsuit filed against sheriff’s Lt. William West over an alleged assault against Richard Kevin Connolly has no merit. Connolly alleges in a federal lawsuit that West used unnecessary force against him when West alleged Connolly was disturbing a crime scene

Boan said body camera footage and surveillance footage from the church shows Goldsmith had an opportunity to de-escalate the situation.

“The deputy was reacting to what the subject was doing. But the initial reaction, there was time I felt there should have been some de-escalation there,” the sheriff said. “Take a breather, get your mind straight, and make a better decision. You’ve got more time to make that decision.”

The sheriff’s office has filed an allegation against Goldsmith with the South Carolina Criminal Justice Academy, meaning Goldsmith won’t be able to work as a law enforcement officer in the state unless he wins an appeal.

Goldsmith joined the sheriff’s office in early 2019 and was named deputy of the year that year.

Connolly said in his lawsuit that he was trying to reach his father when he encountered West on Oct. 8.

The lawsuit states in part that West “slammed plaintiff on the hood of a white vehicle. Deputy West then choked plaintiff with his forearm and threw plaintiff onto the ground, placed his knee into the side of plaintiff’s face driving plaintiff’s face into the gravel driveway causing injury and pain.”

Crosby said the state is not investigating West. Neither the sheriff’s office nor Boan is named in the lawsuit.

“I’ve seen bits and pieces, and I will at some point watch the entire thing from everybody’s angle and all to get a better feel on it,” Boan said. “But at this point, I don’t see or know of any reason why that this needs to be investigated criminally by SLED.”

Boan said he takes responsibility for the incident involving Goldsmith and will work with his deputies to make better decisions about use of force.

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