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|Goose Creek Police tape prompts questions on school raid
Click here for the video clip of the raid.
Newly released videotape from inside Stratford High School shows a startling picture of the controversial November drug raid at the Goose Creek school.
The video was taken by the Goose Creek Police during the raid. It shows officers, some with guns drawn, forcing dozens of students to kneel on the floor as police dogs sniffed for drugs. Other students were bound with plastic handcuffs.
The Associated Press reports the department's procedures say canines can enter and conduct an illegal narcotics detection only after the on-scene supervisor has cleared the area of all personnel.
Several attorneys are filing class action lawsuits claiming students rights were violated by the raid. In a lawsuit filed in federal court on Friday against the City of Goose Creek and the Berkeley County School District, 17 students say they felt frightened as the dog passed by. The suit says a dog was unruly and appeared to be unresponsive to commands.
The suit charges the students' constitutional rights had been violated. It also levels charges of assault, battery and false arrest.
One of attorneys suing is Columbia lawyer Marlon Kimpson, "What we saw on November 5th flashing on TV's around the nation were commando-style tactics that should be used in Baghdad, not Goose Creek."
Kimpson represents students and parents like Jake Lewis whose 17-year-old son was in the hallway that morning, "After I viewed that video and saw how they abused those kids at that particular time, I told them there was no way on this planet I was going to allow them to get away with this."
Midlands ACLU representative Denise Williams was equally as condemning of the tactics at Stratford HS, "These types of tactics that were used on kids are more appropriate for a prison riot as opposed to being used in a school. If police had suspicions, that students were taking or dealing drugs, the way to handle it would've been to bring the kids into the office and search them there, but not a wholesale raid on 107 kids."
In his lawsuit, Lewis wants an unspecified amount of money, but he also wants answers. He wants to know why Goose Creek police officers raided his son's school with their guns drawn.
The defendants named in the lawsuit, filed in US District Court in Charleston, include: Stratford High School principal George McCrackin; Berkeley County school superintendent Chester Floyd; Goose Creek police Chief Harvey Becker; Goose Creek Police Lt. Dave Aarons; the City of Goose Creek; its police department and the Berkeley County School District.
Jim Watson, secretary of the North American Police Work Dog Association, said Goose Creek's canine unit is certified. Watson wouldn't comment on the Stratford search, which found no drugs. Police checked 107 students, but none was arrested in the November 5th raid. Some students say they saw classmates running from campus, dumping drugs during the raid.
Charleston County Prosecutor Ralph Hoisington last week announced he was turning information he had collected on the raid over to South Carolina Attorney General Henry McMaster. Hoisington is also the prosecutor for Berkeley County where Stratford High is located.
Hoisington is asking McMaster to review the investigation and make an independent determination as to whether state criminal violations warranting prosecution took place.
Hoisington also asked the State Law Enforcement Division to turn the results of its investigation over to the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the US Attorney's office to see if any federal criminal violations occurred.
Lt. Aarons said, only days after the raid, that having guns drawn is a matter of officer safety, because weapons often accompany drug dealing. School officials and police said the raid was an example of zero tolerance. They point to at least four cases of students bringing drugs to school.