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Videotape Captures Trooper Abusing Woman During Speeding Stop

March 8, 1996

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) _ A fired state trooper was shown on his own car’s video camera abusing a woman he stopped for doing 80 mph in a 65-mph zone: He shoved her down on the road, cursed her and threatened to cut her clothes off.

On Thursday state officials released the tape, which Public Safety Director Boykin Rose said showed Lance Cpl. W.H. Beckwith, an 11-year Highway Patrol veteran, ``violating every procedure in the book.″

Beckwith was fired a month and a half after the Jan. 8 incident. His car was one of about 350 patrol cars equipped with video cameras that turn on with the cars’ lights and sirens.

Rose has forwarded the tape, broadcast on South Carolina television stations, to the State Law Enforcement Division, the state attorney general and the FBI for possible criminal charges, including assault and civil rights violations.

``It’s imperative that the citizens of this state know this is an isolated incident,″ Rose said. ``This is a blot on all of us.″

The Florida woman, who was traveling to North Carolina, was not identified. One of her lawyers, John Delgado, said he wrote to the Public Safety Department last month to tell them of his intent to file a civil rights suit.

``It’s just beyond description that that could happen in a free country,″ Delgado said. ``That was just pure unadulterated anger, couched in an official capacity with a badge and a gun.″

Shortly before 1 p.m. on Jan. 8, Beckwith was driving an unmarked patrol car along Interstate 95 in Clarendon County when he saw the woman doing 80 mph in a 65 mph zone.

His car’s siren can be heard on the videotape and Beckwith had his blue lights on, Rose said, but the woman did not stop for seven minutes. ``I had no idea who you were,″ she said later on tape.

Beckwith did not wear his trooper’s hat while driving, as he was supposed to, Rose said.

Once the woman stopped, Beckwith approached the car with his gun drawn and began trying to drag her out. ``I’ve been behind you with blue lights. ... Get on the damn ground, lady! On the damn ground!″ he shouted.

Pushing her face down on the pavement, Beckwith tried to handcuff the woman, but part of her clothing got in the way. ``If I can’t get it off, I’ll cut it off,″ he said.

When the woman said she could not roll over to stand up because she was next to the car, he shouted: ``Roll over and stand your ass up, lady, now! You’re fixin’ to taste liquid hell in a minute!″

The woman suffered bruises and scratches, Rose said. She pleaded guilty to speeding, a charge of failure to stop for police was dropped, and she was released the same day, Rose said.

After the woman complained that day, Beckwith’s superiors got the tape from his car. He was suspended Feb. 1, but it took until Feb. 22 to complete the investigation and fire him, Rose said.

``I can’t begin to imagine what was going on in this trooper’s mind,″ Rose said.

Telephone calls to a listing for W.H. Beckwith in Florence went unanswered.

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