The FBI has opened a civil rights investigation into complaints against four Aiken police officers who are now at the center of a federal lawsuit that says two officers unconstitutionally performed a public cavity search of an Aiken County man in 2014.
According to the Aiken Standard, Elijah Pontoon and Lakeya Hicks are suing in federal court the Aiken Department of Public Safety, its Chief Charles Barranco, four Aiken police officers and the City of Aiken over what they say was an unconstitutional search by police on Oct. 2, 2014.
The suit also says officer Chris Medlin and former officer Clark Smith unconstitutionally performed a public cavity search of Pontoon in broad daylight after Hicks’ vehicle was pulled over for a “paper tag” on Horry Street, near Richland Avenue.
Aiken City Manager John Klimm told the Aiken Standard on Wednesday he has taken a “two-pronged approach” to investigate the matter that includes bringing the FBI in to conduct an external investigation of the complaint.
The FBI’s civil rights division started its investigation Wednesday. That investigation will be led by Assistant Special Agent James Robert Brown Jr., of the FBI’s Columbia division, Klimm said.
The FBI’s civil rights program is comprised of subprograms that include hate crimes, human trafficking cases and color of law violations, defined as “actions taken by any person using the authority given to him or her by a local, state, tribal or federal government agency to willfully deprive someone of a right, privilege or immunity secured or protected by the Constitution of the United States,” according to the FBI’s website.
FBI opens civil rights investigation of 4 Aiken police officers