A police dash cam video has surfaced featuring an alleged public rectal search of a black man by white police officers in Aiken, South Carolina, on Oct. 2, 2014 (video below).
Lakeya Hicks and Elijah Pontoon, both African-American, were pulled over by Officer Chris Medlin for having temporary tags; Hicks had the tags on her car because she had recently purchased it, notes the Washington Post.
There is no law banning temporary tags in South Carolina as long as the tags are not expired.
The video is part of the evidence in a 2015 lawsuit filed by attorney Robert Phillips on behalf of Hicks and Pontoon against Medlin, Officer Clark Smith, an unidentified female, Aiken Department of Public Safety Chief Charles Barranco, Aiken Department of Public Safety, and the City of Aiken.
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In the video, Medlin tells Hicks that he pulled her over because of the “paper tag” on her car, and then asks Pontoon for identification, even though he is the passenger and not responsible for the tags.
Both Medlin and Pontoon provide their driver's licenses for Medlin, who later informs Hicks that her license and tags are up to date and legal.
Medlin tells Pontoon to get out of the car, handcuffs him, and refuses to say why.
A few minutes later, Medlin tells Pontoon, “Because of your past history, I’ve got a dog coming in here; gonna walk a dog around the car. And make sure there ain't nothing in the car we don't know about, OK?"
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Moments later, Medlin informs Pontoon, "You gonna pay for this one, boy.”
Smith arrives on the scene with a police dog and walks it around the car. Another officer arrives and the police search the car -- a search which fails to yield any evidence.
Medlin then instructs a female officer to search Hicks. The search is performed off-camera, but the lawsuit alleges that the female officer exposed Hicks’ breasts to three male officers. Hicks can be heard on the video objecting to the search, which turned up no evidence anything illegal was taking place.
Turning his attention to Pontoon, Medlin says, “There's something here right between your legs. There’s something hard right there between your legs.”
The subsequent alleged rectal search also occurred off-camera.
Pontoon tells the police that he has hemorrhoids, but an unidentified officer replies, "It don't feel like no hemorrhoid because I've had one before."
During another point in the alleged search, that may have included two cops at the same time, an officer reportedly says, “What are you talking about, right here?” and a second replies, “Right straight up in there.”
After the alleged search fails to produce any evidence, Medlin tells Pontoon, “Now I know you from before, from when I worked dope. I seen you. That’s why I put a dog on the car.”
Medlin is later heard off-camera, possibly on the radio, stating:
And on a search of him, up in his crotch by the butt, I felt something hard. I loosened his pants and pulled his underwear down.
And I didn't see anything, but I didn't get all the way up there to get no vertical up-shot, but, I mean, just pulled his underwear back I didn't see nothing.
But it felt, he said it was a hemorrhoid. It's a rock. It's a rock in the crack. It's gotta be a rock. He's got it up in his butt.
Medlin issues Hicks a courtesy warning, even though she has not violated any laws. Medlin also lectures her on cleaning out her car, which contained nothing illegal.
John Wesley Hall, a former president of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, told the Washington Post:
This is quite appalling, to say the least. I’ve encountered on the street strip searches of men in my own practice, but never of a woman on the street, and then this case has the added anal probing.
Worse yet: There is no legal justification for anything, including the stop because criminal history alone isn’t reasonable suspicion. Everything starting with the stop was unreasonable under the Fourth Amendment, and it just got progressively worse.
Aiken public information officer Capt. David Turno told the newspaper via email, “The City of Aiken denies the Plaintiffs’ allegations and is vigorously defending this lawsuit. We will have no further comment about the facts of this case during the pendency of this litigation.”