WMBF INVESTIGATES: Documents reveal MBPD officer fired for alleged misconduct; SLED investigating

Updated: Mar. 17, 2021 at 6:58 PM EDT
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MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WMBF) - A fired Myrtle Beach Police officer is being investigated by the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division, according to documents obtained by WMBF.

According to documents filed with the South Carolina Criminal Justice Academy, Justin Vasquez was fired on July 24, 2020, after Myrtle Beach Police received a citizen complaint regarding misconduct in the office.

WMBF has requested a copy of this complaint.

According to the state’s criminal justice academy documents, an internal investigation was opened based on the citizen alleging that Vasquez had taken photos under her skirt while in the process of getting her witness testimony.

Vasquez “was terminated based on compelled statement confirming the actions alleged by the complainant/victim,” the description of the alleged misconduct reads.

The investigation was referred to SLED, where it remains open, according to SLED spokesperson, Tommy Crosby. No warrants or charges have been issued in the case.

Crosby explained that investigations are conducted to check if any criminal violations have happened.

“We don’t have the authority to dictate the policy for a particular law enforcement agency,” Crosby said. “Our job is to make sure we do a complete, thorough, independent investigation. We understand the importance for timeliness, however we cannot sacrifice thoroughness in order to rush an investigation.”

On Feb. 5, a civil lawsuit was filed by the alleged victim, six months after Vasquez’s firing. She is only identified as Jane Doe.

RELATED COVERAGE | Lawsuit: Myrtle Beach officer took non-consensual photos of woman while responding to a call

The lawsuit names Vasquez, the city of Myrtle Beach, the Myrtle Beach Police Department, and Myrtle Beach Police Chief Amy Prock as the defendants.

The case, first filed in Horry County’s court of common pleas, has now been passed to South Carolina District Court, federal records show.

According to federal court documents, Vasquez was served on March 10, over a month after the suit was first filed.

The city of Myrtle Beach, Myrtle Beach Police Department and Prock have answered the complaint, requesting they be dropped from the suit.

“The Complaint fails to state facts sufficient to constitute a cause of action” against the chief, city and police department, their documents say.

The plaintiff is asking for an unspecified amount of damages.

WMBF reached out to Vasquez to request a comment on the suit but he declined. When asked if he had obtained an attorney he declined to say.

WMBF also requested further comment from the attorney of the plaintiff in the lawsuit. We have not received one.

The Myrtle Beach Police Department declined to comment on the case but referred us to their policies and procedures manual.

According to section 102-G, which addresses the department’s policies for handling complaints and personnel discipline, the procedures help with investigating incidents and how to correct them, “which may range from fixing a minor miscommunication to a much broader need for department-wide training, to separation from employment, or criminal prosecution.”

The policy states when a citizen complaint form and any supporting documentation is collected, the complaint is sent to MBPD’s Office of Professional Standards, who logs the complaint. They then determine “whether the matter falls within their office for review or whether to forward it to a supervisor for investigation.”

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