A federal grand jury has indicted Chester County Sheriff Alex Underwood, 55, his chief deputy and a lieutenant, saying they falsified police reports and made false statements to the FBI.
Underwood is Chester County's first African American sheriff.
The eight-count indictment released on Tuesday says Sheriff Underwood, Chief Deputy Robert Sprouse, 44, and Lt. Johnny Neal, 39, were involved in a conspiracy to cover up an unlawful arrest and excessive use of force involving a man video recording a traffic accident in Fort Lawn, South Carolina in November 2018.
Jody Norris, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI says:
“It is paramount that law enforcement maintain the trust of the public which it serves. These charges are a reminder that nobody is above the law.”
The indictments stem from an incident on Nov. 20, 2018, when 26-year-old Kevin Simpson live-streamed emergency vehicles at a traffic wreck outside his home. Sheriff Underwood is seen on video ordering Simpson to get on his porch, citing a manhunt was underway, WACH News reports.
Simpson complied but yelled “manhunt” as Sheriff Underwood walked away. The sheriff then turned around, grabbed Simpson and placed him under arrest. Lieutenant Neal is alleged to have wrestled Simpson to the ground, injuring Simpson’s head and elbow.
Simpson was charged with disorderly conduct and resisting arrest.
The indictments say that when Sheriff Underwood and Chief Deputy Sprouse learned that Simpson live-streamed the video, they drew up a search warrant to search Simpson’s home, saying one of their radios was missing.
During the search, they found Simpson’s cell phone and illegally confiscated it, the indictments said. Underwood and Sprouse later tampered with the phone to destroy or “impair its integrity or availability” in a federal investigation, the indictments said.
One count also alleges that Neal and Sprouse concocted a bogus police report saying Simpson used profane language toward them. Other counts say Underwood and Sprouse lied to the FBI when asked about the incident. Underwood, Neal and Sprouse are set to appear in federal court on May 21. The charges carry sentences ranging from 1 to 20 years of prison per count.
In 2014, a female deputy filed a lawsuit alleging that Sheriff Underwood used his position as sheriff to force her to have sex.