Multiple white South Carolina police officers are accused of performing illegal body searches, including an anal cavity search, during a traffic stop involving a black woman and man.
On Oct. 2, 2014, Lakeya Hicks and Elijah Pontoon were pulled over by Officer Chris Medlin of the Aiken Department of Public Affairs because of temporary registration tags, Washington Post reports.
The car had recently been purchased by Hicks so she had not received her registration stickers yet, but the temporary paper tag had not expired.
The traffic stop was caught on dash cam video.
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Hicks is asked by Medlin to get out of the vehicle, and he also asks passenger Pontoon for his identification. After running Hicks’ license and tags, Medlin tells her that everything checks out, but he does not send the couple on their way.
Instead, Medlin tells Pontoon to get out of the vehicle and handcuffs him. When he asks what is happening, Medlin initially ignores him. When asked again, he says he will “explain it all in a minute.”
A female officer arrives several minutes later and Pontoon is told by Medlin that because of his history, a dog is going to come and walk around the car.
“You gonna pay for this one, boy,” Medlin says seconds later to Pontoon.
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K9 Officer Clark Smith arrives with the dog, a fourth officer also arrives, and a thorough search of the vehicle is completed by all of the officers.
They do not find anything in the vehicle and thus turn their attention to the bodies of Hicks and Pontoon.
Hicks is taken off-camera after a female officer is told to “search her real good” by Medlin.
According to the lawsuit filed by Hicks and Pontoon Sept. 21, 2015, Hicks’ breasts were exposed on the side of the road in the middle of town, with the three male officers standing inches away, watching the search take place.
When Hicks complained of the “horrific and demeaning treatment,” Medlin allegedly said, “It’s a female officer.”
After Hicks’ search, the officers turned to Pontoon.
Pontoon was handcuffed when Medlin allegedly said, “There is something right here between your legs.”
Officer Clark was told by Medlin to put on gloves and a cavity search of Pontoon's rectum was performed on the side of the road.
Pontoon at one point told the officers that they were grabbing his hemorrhoids.
“They ain’t hemorrhoids, they ain’t that hard,” Clark and/or Medlin reportedly said in response.
The anal cavity search lasted minutes, wherein Clark and Medlin repeatedly discussed whether they were touching Pontoon’s hemorrhoids or the “unknown object that is too hard to be a hemorrhoid.”
The unprovoked and illegal cavity search of Pontoon returned nothing.
Hicks and Pontoon were detained for 40 minutes. After the searches were over and the officers found nothing to charge them with, they were each given a “courtesy warning" for an undisclosed offense.
A citizens complaint filed by Hicks and Pontoon was ignored by the department.
They are seeking unspecified punitive damages and penalties in the lawsuit, as well as reimbursement of legal fees.
Capt. David Turno, the Aiken Public Information Officer, told the Washington Post that the incident had been investigated and that Medlin still works for the department.
“The City of Aiken denies the Plaintiffs’ allegations and is vigorously defending this lawsuit,” Turno wrote in an email. “We will have no further comment about the facts of this case during the pendency of this litigation.”