Horry council chairman reassures public of 'quality law enforcement' in light of HCPD lawsuits

Horry council chairman reassures public of 'quality law enforcement' in light of HCPD lawsuits

HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) - Horry County Council Chairman Mark Lazarus has reassured the public that the governing body remains committed to "providing quality law enforcement to our citizens and visitors."

The statement comes after a lawsuit was filed by a woman whose sexual assault case was being investigated by an Horry County detective.

That lawsuit accuses the former detective of demanding that she participate in a nude, videotaped fist-fight with other women while a group of men watched.

Lazaurs' full statement can be read below:

With the recent news surrounding the Horry County Police Department regarding current lawsuits/SLED investigation and retirement of leadership, I want to reassure the public that we are committed to providing quality law enforcement to our citizens and visitors.

The county is in full cooperation with SLED and assisting them with the information they need to fully investigate any potential wrongdoings. While we are going through some highly unusual circumstances, we don't want this to overshadow the many honorable men and women in the Horry County Police Department who are true heroes in our community and who put their lives in danger every day to protect us.

As chairman, I can tell you that Horry County Council is committed to serving the great people of this community, and we ask for your patience and support as we continue to move forward.

WMBF News reached out to each and every Horry County Council member Thursday for their own comments. Only five of the 11 answered or returned calls.

Councilman Johnny Vaught said, "He really can't comment on anything," because he doesn't know enough. When asked about County Administrator Chris Eldridge's handling of the retirement of former Police Chief Saundra Rhodes, Vaught said, "His handling of the situation was the way it should have been handled."

Vice Chairman Tyler Servant said he can't discuss anything since Eldridge handles all employment matters.

In reference to the accusations against Allen Large and the Horry County Police Department, Gary Loftus said, "I'm always concerned about allegations like that." When asked about the county administrator's performance and a recent council review, Loftus said, "You're asking me to talk about things discussed in executive session and I'm not going to do so."

Councilman Bill Howard pledged his full support for Eldridge. When asked about allegations against Horry County Police, Howard said, "I will look into it." Howard hung up the phone before any more questions could be asked.

Longtime District 9 Councilman Paul Prince was the only one with alternative comments about the questions surrounding HCPD and the county administrator's handling of recent events.

Prince said, "The administrator needs to bring things like this to county council. We need to know what's going on, that's what a county administrator is for." Prince said, until now, it didn't seem like the administrator was reporting back to council.

Since the announcement of Saundra Rhodes' retirement, WMBF News has tried repeatedly to get answers from Eldridge. The response has been that any questions can go to the county spokesperson.

In his time as county administrator, Eldridge has never granted WMBF an interview.

The suit, filed Wednesday, accuses former HCPD Detective Allen Large of offering the woman, identified only as Jane Doe 2, to assist her with regaining custody of her children, to move her into a condo in Murrells Inlet, and to provide her with a mode of transportation. In exchange, he demanded that the woman engage in a nude "catfight" against another woman, "as there was a group of men in the area who liked to watch women participate in nude, videotaped fistfights." When the woman resisted Det. Large's requests, he threatened to take personal action to keep her from visiting her children, the suit alleges.

This lawsuit comes several months after another suit was filed by another victim, identified as Jane Doe, alleging that Det. Large was called to investigate another sexual assault case in December of 2013, and "engaged in a course of coercive behavior, unwanted sexual advances, and sexual assault."

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