MARION COUNTY, SC (WMBF) - Marion County Sheriff Mark Richardson confirmed Thursday that the FBI is looking into claims that a deputy improperly stopped and racially profiled two actors on the roadside in an incident that was initially reported by a citizen journalist on CNN's iReport website.
A writer from Delaware posted an account by actor Dennis White, who was in the film 'Notorious,' about his experience in Marion County while on vacation with Cherie Johnson, known for her roles in 'Punky Brewster' and 'Family Matters.'
The report, posted to CNN's citizen journalist site "iReport," describes an incident that allegedly occurred on the roadside on the afternoon of September 22. The couple had pulled to the side of the road next to a cotton field to take in "the history and the oppression that those little white balls created decades ago," White states in his account.
According to White, Marion County Deputy S. Barfield pulled up behind their car, ran their registration, and began to ask White and Johnson a "plethora of questions."
"He started asking me if there were drugs in the car. He asked me if I had marijuana. He asked me if I had cocaine. He asked me if I had prescription pills. I said, ‘no sir I don't do drugs, I don't have anything.', " Johnson said.
Deputy Barfield told White that Johnson had a warrant for her arrest, handcuffed both of them, and later admitted that she did not have a warrant, the report states.
According to White, deputies repeatedly asked to search his vehicle, and when they did, they found nothing.
"He un-cuffed us and let us go. No apology, no nothing," White said in the CNN report. "At no point in history is this justified, especially not in this day and age…South Carolina has been known to treat African-American [sic] as second-class citizens. It's not right and it's not fair."
In response to this incident, Marion County Sheriff Mark Richardson issued the following statement:
"Discrimination in any form, including racial profiling, is strictly prohibited by this department and as Sheriff of Marion County SC, I can assure you I will take immediate and appropriate action to investigate the allegations of racial profiling made by Mr. White and Ms. Johnson. This matter will be dealt with by an internal investigation within the department and I will also ask the State law Enforcement Division to review the allegation made against Deputy Barfield."
WMBF News has requested any dash-camera video from this incident, but Sheriff Richardson said that only two patrol cars have working dash cams. The county denied his request for six cameras in the most recent budget, he said.
WMBF News has also requested a copy of Deputy Barfield's personnel file.
On Thursday, Sheriff Richardson confirmed that the FBI is investigating the claims made by White and Johnson.
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