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Columbia reviewing incident of officer holding protester down with knee

It took place during the May 30 protests in downtown Columbia in the wake of the George Floyd killing.

COLUMBIA, S.C. — Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin says the city is conducting a full review of an incident that appears to shows an officer putting his knee near a man's neck while taking him into custody at a recent protest.

Benjamin released a statement Friday night about the incident, where he also sent out two police body came videos which capture the moment in question. It took place during the May 30 protests in downtown Columbia in the wake of the George Floyd killing.

In the video, you see an officer walking up, trying to get bystanders to move back, as his fellow officers have a suspect on the ground.

When the officer walks up, you can see three other officers on the ground with that suspect. At least two of them appear to be kneeling on the suspect in that video. And at least one of the officers may have had his knee on the suspect’s neck.

Benjamin says this incident that is under review. He's spoken to Columbia Police Chief Skip Holbrook who was aware of the situation and has already conducted a full review and a review of the department's policies.

Columbia police believes based on its review, it doesn't appear the officer violated any policies or procedures. 

"Based on a review of body-worn camera videos, it is not clear that the officer violated any policies or procedures," police say. "The officer continues to work in his official capacity. The Columbia Police Department (CPD) has clear policy against airway restrictions limiting it to situations only when it is necessary to protect someone from serious physical injury or to protect human life. CPD has several policies in place to protect the community in all situations. We will continue to improve upon them and to require the highest level of service from our officers."

Benjamin asked for the body cam videos showing the incident to be immediately released.

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“This nation has been heartbroken after seeing the horrific video of George Floyd being killed by an officer kneeling on his neck, while fellow officers stood by and watched," Benjamin said. "When I first saw the picture of the officer here in Columbia published by The State taken during last week’s protests and subsequent violence arresting a man while holding him down with his knee I was immediately concerned, and I wanted answers."

Benjamin said the chokehold is not allowed under City of Columbia policies and will not be tolerated. The only exception is to protect someone from serious physical injury or to protect human life.

The mayor is also asking three people who may have photos or videos of the incident to come forward to help determine what exactly happened in the situation.