SC police officer suspended after concert fight goes viral
Andrew Shain and Mindy Lucas
Andrew Shain and Mindy Lucas The Herald
COLUMBIA, S.C. The Columbia Police officer suspended after a video posted on social media showed him punching an man on the ground outside a concert venue early Sunday morning has no previous disciplinary record with the department, Columbia Police Chief Skip Holbrook said.
Investigator Tyrone Pugh was suspended Sunday without pay pending the outcome of an internal and South Carolina Law Enforcement Division investigation, Holbrook said Monday in revealing the name of the officer.
Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin told The State on Monday that he was "gravely concerned" about what he saw Pugh doing in the video.
A 15-second video of the incident outside the Columbia Soundstage posted online shows Pugh in uniform kneeling on a man who was on the ground and laying to their side. Pugh strikes the man around his head at least five times in the video.
"Stay on the ground! Stay on the ground!" Pugh shouts to the man while punching him.
"Why are you punching him?" the woman taking the video screams at Pugh.
"Back the (expletive) up!" Pugh tells the video shooter.
Robyn Fogg, who shot the video, said the man on the ground was not involved in the fight. The man was standing near the scuffle when police arrived.
Fogg said an officer grabbed the man, threw him to the ground and started punching him.
"He said, 'I didn't do anything.' He wasn't resisting," said Fogg, who will join the Army later this month. "I think it was unnecessary. Two other cops there were aggressive but not like that."
The man on the ground, whose name has not been released, was not arrested, a Columbia police spokeswoman said. Two other 23-year-old men were arrested and charged for fighting.
Fogg said the party of about 300 people celebrating her upcoming 20th birthday was uneventful before the fight in the parking lot as everyone was leaving.
Holbrook, who confirmed Monday that Fogg's video was the same one that his department reviewed, told The State that Pugh and the person on the ground were both African-American.
Pugh has worked with the Columbia Police Department since May 2007, the chief said. He was promoted to the rank of Investigator with the Criminal Investigations Division in 2013 and is assigned to the Property Crimes Unit.
Additionally, Pugh is a first sergeant in the U.S. Army Reserve with nearly 29 years of military service, Holbrook said.
Holbrook declined further comment about the case.
Benjamin said he learned Pugh was suspended without an hour after speaking with Holbrook about the incident late Sunday afternoon.
"I know there are multiple sides to the story," Benjamin said. "(The video) left me gravely concerned as to what the possible circumstances might have been, and I shared that with the chief and he acted accordingly."
The incident involving the officer occurred after 2 a.m. Sunday outside the Columbia Soundstage on Blanding Street, Holbrook said. The venue is used to host concerts and other events.
Five uniformed off-duty police officers were working in the venue's parking lot and responded to a large fight, Holbrook said.
The incident involving Pugh that is under investigation occurred as officers attempted to control the crowd and investigate the scuffle, Holbrook said.