A Nazi symbol was found etched into the handle of a flashlight that white police officers from the North Charleston police department used to beat black suspects, a new lawsuit claims.
The South Carolina police department has been under fire since a white officer shot suspect Walter Scott in the back, killing him. Video showed an officer shooting the unarmed Scott as he ran away, then appearing to plant a weapon on him. While that officer was on trial, fellow North Charleston cop Leroy Hair was arrested and charged with hitting a handcuffed black man.
A search of Hair’s car turned up a police-issued flashlight that had a racist Nazi symbol “SS” etched into the side along with the words “The Wig Splitter,” the Post and Courier reported. The Nazi symbol is one popular among white supremacist groups and refers to the Nazi police squad that carried out genocide.
The North Charleston police department had been criticized by civil rights groups for its aggressive policing of minority areas and violent tactics with suspects, and Hair’s arrest came amid demonstrations from community groups.
Though it was found in his car, Hair denied owning the flashlight and said he did not know where it came from. He has now filed a new lawsuit claiming that the flashlight was part of the police department’s heavy-handed tactics when addressing minority communities and a plot to blame him for it.
Hair’s lawyer claims that officials tried to frame the officer for the episode, in which a handcuffed black suspect was beaten. Hair was charged but ultimately acquitted of the beating, and the flashlight was not mentioned in the trial.
“They were trying to hang everything on him,” said Hair’s lawyer, Edward Phipps. “He was made a patsy.”
Police video had shown Hair among a group of officers who beat an unruly black suspect. Hair struck the suspect as he was in the back of a police car, delivering five blows to the man’s head.
Hair’s arrest came during the trial of Michael Slager, the officer who shot unarmed black suspect Walter Scott in the back. Slager was ultimately convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced to 20 years in prison, ABC News reported.
Caroline Cleveland, a lawyer representing the city of Charleston, said there was no conspiracy to frame Hair for racist abuse within the police department, the Post and Courier reported. Leroy Hair is seeking monetary damages from North Charleston for his firing.