Columbia, SC (WLTX) - The attorney for State NAACP Director Lonnie Randolph says his client suffers from diabetes, which led to a "cascade of misunderstandings" during an incident in Columbia's Five Points last week. Meanwhile, Columbia's interim police chief believes charges may ultimately be dropped in this case.
Joe McCulloch issued the statement about Randolph Wednesday, the day after it was revealed that Randolph is facing charges after an incident at Tripp's Cleaners on Harden Street. Previous Coverage: SC NAACP President Charged After Incident at Cleaners
"This incident is the result of a cascade of misunderstanding and the individuals involved not recognizing the diabetic condition," McCulloch said in his statement.
On July 12th, an employee of the store called police after she said Randolph refused to pay his bill and didn't want to leave the store.
An incident report from the Columbia Police Department state that one of their officers asked Randolph if he had money to pay, and he didn't reply. Once outside the store, the officer reported that he told Randolph to stay away from the cleaners or face arrest. The report says Randolph refused to leave the location, and began to move back and forward in "an irritated manner."
As officers attempted to place Randolph in custody, they reported that Randolph struggled, and at one point, stiffened as they tried to place him in the police car. The report states one of the officers "delivered two knee strikes" to Randolph and "one closed hand strike to the chest." The other officer then pushed Randolph into the vehicle.
The statement says Randolph's condition causes confusion and disorientation.
"The report and video depict a person in distress--which was misinterpreted at the time." McCulloch said. "Though a long time customer at the Five Points business, last Friday [Randolph] encountered an employee who did not know him and who was unaware of his diabetic condition, and not recognizing his disorientation for what it was, the police rather than EMS was summoned."
City Manager Teresa Wilson and Interim Columbia Police Chief Ruben Santiago were notified of the situation as it was going on. Wilson went to the scene, while Santiago instructed officers to field book Randolph on charges of disorderly conduct, trespass, and resisting arrest.
Wilson issued a statement Wednesday on her involvement.
"It is not uncommon, when I deem necessary, to go on scene," Wilson said in a statement. "I was nearby in downtown Columbia after leaving work. When I received the call and was briefed, I went to the scene based off the totality of the circumstance presented and also because of my personal knowledge of Dr. Randolph's medical condition. However, upon my arrival, Dr. Randolph was no longer on the scene and had been transported to receive medical care." Read: Teresa Wilson's Full Statement
Randolph was taken to Palmetto Health Richland for treatment. The incident report noted he had blood on his lip following the encounter.
Chief Santiago spoke about the incident saying he believes his officers acted appropriately and followed training.
"Of course I know this is an awkward situation," said Santiago. "The officers are trained to do a certain job and they do that impartially." He says he became aware of Randolph's medical history in the last year.
"I can imagine many people might think, well, if they knew it was Dr. Randolph or another high profile person in the City of Columbia, why didn't they just dismiss the charges there? Well that would be inappropriate. That would not be proper."
Santiago said he expects charges will ultimately be dropped.
MORE: Full Statement from McCulloch:
"In view of the several news reports yesterday, Dr. Randolph has requested I issue this brief statement. Like thousands of people across the nation, Dr. Randolph has confronted, for most of his life, a family history and his own personal health challenge of diabetes, the number 3 killer in the United States. While keeping an active professional life as an optometrist and human rights activist, Dr. Randolph like many must deal with this health challenge on a daily basis. Despite the best efforts to monitor and prevent the symptoms of confusion and disorientation and other effects of the disease of diabetes, these events occur and are frequently misinterpreted by laypeople and even law enforcement- which is the case here. This medical issue for Dr. Randolph is well known to his family and close friends who support him in dealing with the disease. The report and video depict a person in distress - which was misinterpreted at the time.
"This incident is the result of a cascade of misunderstandings and the individuals involved not recognizing the diabetic condition. Though a long time customer at the Five Points business, last Friday he encountered an employee who did not know him and who was unaware of his diabetic condition, and not recognizing his disorientation for what it was, the police rather than EMS were summoned. The misinterpretation by the employee continued upon the arrival of the police who like wise did not recognize the situation to be a health issue.
"We are continuing to discuss and provide information to the business involved and the police department with the expectation of presenting the true circumstances in a future court proceeding."