Not long after a Cheraw police officer was arrested, and subsequently fired from his job last summer, he committed suicide. His family is now suing officers involved in the arrest and the Chesterfield Police Department for wrongful death.
David Watson was arrested June 2, 2012, on a DUI charge. He died Aug. 29, 2012.
The lawsuit, which names Robert A. Adams, Leslie Davis, Eric Hewitt, the Chesterfield Police Department, and the South Carolina Department of Public Safety as defendants, claims “David W. Watson, came to his untimely death as a consequence of alleged wrongful conduct.” The suit also claims “the acts and omissions” of the defendants “constitute wrongful conduct and/or violations of federal and state law.”
The suit was filed Nov. 8, and the defendants have until Dec. 8 to respond. If the case does go before a jury trial, it won’t be before November 2013. Chesterfield Police Chief Eric Hewitt refused to comment on the case.
According to the “Factual Allegations” of the lawsuit filed with Chesterfield County, the events of the June 2 arrest began with a call from Officer Davis. “Davis informs 911 dispatch that his grandmother, who he claims is sitting in Bojangles, has just called him to report that a white car with tinted windows has come up and parked, no one can see in to the car and that they want someone to come check it out.”
Officer Adams responds to the call and while turning onto Main Street in Chesterfield met a “white vehicle matching the description.” Adams turned around and as he “came up behind the vehicle, the vehicle slowed, engaged the right-turn signal, and executed a right-turn in to a private drive at 911 W. Main Street.”
According to the lawsuit, when Watson got out of his car, Officer Adams “noticed it was David Watson, an investigator with Cheraw Police Department.” Adams also reported that Watson “grabbed the (car) door for support and was very unsteady on his feet.” He reported too, that Watson “had slurred speech and there was an odor of alcohol coming from the vehicle as well as from his person.”
Just as Watson was getting out of his car, Adams said, Trooper Davis with the South Carolina Highway Patrol pulls in to assist. Then Adams “turned his attention away from Watson to respond to a telephone call from Defendant Hewitt and that when his attention returned, Watson was entering his residence.”
According to the lawsuit, “Watson locked his door and would not respond or unlock the door.”
A search warrant was issued by Judge Davis and when served by defendant Hewitt and Cheraw Police officer Keith Thomas, according to the lawsuit, Thomas “talked Watson into coming out.” Watson was then handcuffed, transported to the Chesterfield County Detention Center and charged with driving under the influence of alcohol.
In August, Watson faced an administrative hearing where he challenged the state’s suspension of his driver’s license as a result of the DUI charge. He also challenged the probable cause for the traffic stop.
The lawsuit claims the plaintiff, decedent Watson, “suffered mental, emotional and physical harm” caused by: a) “The acts and omissions of Defendant Chesterfield Police Department, by show of force and physically detaining the Plaintiff without reasonable suspicion to seize him violated the Plaintiff’s fourth amendment rights; b) The acts and omissions of Defendant CPD, in executing an unlawful stop against the Plaintiff and in subsequently arresting Watson based off of that unlawful stop without probable cause violated Watson’s fourth amendment right to be free from unreasonable seizures; c) The acts and omission of Defendant CPD of intentionally restraining Watson’s movement without lawful authority constituting the tort of false imprisonment; d) The acts and omissions of Defendant CPD of intentionally stopping Watson unlawfully without probable cause and for subsequently arresting Watson without probable cause constitute the tort of false arrest.”
— Staff Writer Karen Kissiah can be reached by calling 843-537-5261, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.