October 7, 2015

Arrangements set for fallen Forest Acres police officer

Alia's former patrol car has been placed in front of the police station as a tribute to the fallen officer (Image: Lexington County Sheriff's Department)

Alia’s former patrol car has been placed in front of the police station as a tribute to the fallen officer (Image: Lexington County Sheriff’s Department)

Funeral arrangements are now set for a Forest Acres police officer who was shot and killed by a fleeing suspect earlier this week.

Richland County officials announced that a Mass for 32-year-old Officer Gregory Alia will be at 11:00 a.m. Saturday, October 3 at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Columbia. The church’s address is 3600 Devine Street in Columbia’s Shandon region southeast of downtown.

Gov. Nikki Haley has ordered that all flags be flown at half-staff on Saturday to coincide with the funeral.

Alia was shot and killed Wednesday morning after responding to a suspicious person call at the Richland Mall in Forest Acres. The seven-year law enforcement veteran leaves behind his wife, a newborn, and both his parents.

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Dorchester County coroner suspended from office

A Summerville officer is seen restraining Nesbit after the coroner tried to confront Leroy Fulton (Image: Summerville PD)

A Summerville officer is seen restraining Nesbit in the body camera video. The coroner had tried to confront Leroy Fulton seconds earlier (Image: Summerville PD)

Governor Nikki Haley has now suspended the Dorchester County Coroner from office after his indictment on a misconduct charge Thursday.

The charge stemmed from an incident involving Coroner Chris Nisbet that occurred back in August. Summerville Police said Nisbet used his county vehicle to chase down and draw his gun against a neighbor who he said had pointed a gun at a repossession worker.

Nisbet was arrested last month, but the indictment for misconduct was handed down by a grand jury on Thursday. Investigators this week also released body camera video of the incident from a Summerville police captain who responded. That was in addition to dashcam video of another officer who was the first to arrive.

State law gives the governor power to remove elected officials who commit crimes of “moral turpitude.” Traditionally, governors wait until the official is indicted before issuing a suspension order.

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Forest Acres officer killed in shooting at Midlands mall

Officer Greg Alia (Image: Facebook)

Officer Greg Alia (Image: Facebook)

A Forest Acres police officer has died after a Wednesday morning shooting at a mall in the Columbia suburb.

Police Chief Gene Sealy said Officer Greg Alia died from injuries he suffered in the shooting at Richland Mall. Sealy identified the suspect in the shooting as 34-year-old Jarvis Hall of Eastover. He said Hall was in custody.

“Our hearts are broken,” Sealy said. “Forest Acres is a small community (with a) small police department. We’re one big family.”

The State Law Enforcement Division said Hall is now charged with murder and possession of a weapon during the commission of a violent crime. He could face the death penalty if the 5th Circuit Solicitor’s Office chooses to prosecute him as a capital case. SLED has taken over the investigation at the request of Forest Acres PD since the victim worked for the police department.

Alia was one of two officers who responded just before 9:00 a.m. over reports of a suspicious person inside the largely-vacant mall about three miles east of downtown Columbia. The chief said the two officers approached Hall in a van outside the mall. During their questioning, Hall became uncooperative and fled into the mall.

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DSS agrees to no longer place youngest foster children in group homes

Gov. Nikki Haley and the head of the state child welfare agency have agreed to several changes in how South Carolina handles foster children, including phasing out the use of non-family group homes for youngest kids.

The consent agreement was signed by a federal judge this week as part of an ongoing class-action lawsuit. The lawsuit was filed earlier this year on behalf of 11 children who were harmed while in the state’s foster care system. The agreement is not a settlement, but offers the state a path towards a solution from what it admits are problems in the system.

As part of the agreement, DSS will have 60 days to create a plan that eventually phases out placing the youngest foster children (6 and under) in non-family group homes. The agency said it will also end the practice of placing children in hotels or offices when no foster home is available.

The agreement also requires DSS to do more to reduce the heavy caseloads among its child welfare caseworkers. The agency must come up with a recommendation in the next two months on the number of cases each worker should handle. It will then be required to adopt those caseload limits within 180 days.

A DSS spokeswoman noted the agency had already been working towards reducing the workload for caseworkers in the past year.
“That critical work has already begun by receiving funding to hire 177 additional case workers and 67 caseworker assistants and aggressively recruiting for those positions, increasing salaries of caseworkers, restructuring the child welfare division, streamlining the foster home licensure process, and improving the support structure for existing foster homes,” spokeswoman Marilyn Matheus said in an emailed statement.

“DSS anticipates that the agreed upon provisions of the interim relief agreement will continue this forward momentum, and DSS is hopeful that it can continue to work towards a full resolution of the lawsuit.”

Children’s Rights, Inc., filed the lawsuit in January on behalf of 11 children in state care between the ages of 2 and 17. According to the complaint, state officials do not properly investigate reports of child maltreatment in foster care and that caseworkers are so overburdened that they cannot accurately handle them.

Matt Long and Bill Dubensky contributed to this report

Two SC reptile business owners sentenced for illegal turtle sales

Spotted Turtle (Image: Fish & Wildlife Service)

Spotted Turtle (Image: Fish & Wildlife Service)

The owners of two different South Carolina reptile businesses will not receive any additional jail time for illegally selling endangered turtles.

Prosecutors announced Wednesday that Steven Baker, 35, of Holly Hill, and Ray Roberson, 68, of Cottageville, were sentenced in Charleston for the illegal selling of Spotted Turtles.

The federal government recognizes the southeastern U.S. as a “Turtle Priority Area” for conservation due to its rich turtle biodiversity. However, the region’s turtle population is vulnerable due to commercial over-exploitation of turtles for consumption, high nest mortality, and delayed maturity. The Spotted Turtle has suffered from these effects so much so that it was recently listed for protection under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

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