Ex-Ridgeland police officer suing department for race discrimination also faces assault charge

mmcnab@beaufortgazette.comAugust 30, 2013 

James Gordon

A former Ridgeland police officer suing the department and town for race discrimination is scheduled to go to trial in October for an assault charge that cost him another job at the Hardeeville Police Department, his attorney said.

James Gordon is accused of assaulting an employee of the Department of Juvenile Justice office in Ridgeland, who claims she had to fight him off with a stapler in an incident Dec. 10, 2012. He was charged in May.

At the time, Gordon was employed as a school resource officer with the Hardeeville Police Department. He previously worked for the Ridgeland Police Department but was fired in 2010.

Gordon's trial is to begin Oct. 5, his attorney, William B. Harvey III, said Tuesday.

According to a S.C. State Law Enforcement Division report of the incident, Gordon cursed at a woman and grabbed her forearms through a window when she refused to quickly open a door to the office and let him in.

Gordon told SLED agents he mistakenly believed she was another employee that he was friendly with, and that he playfully grabbed her arm when she told him to "jump through the window" if he wanted to enter the office.

The woman's statement in the SLED report said that Gordon pulled her hair and grabbed her twice once he was inside the office. She said she chased him away by grabbing his neck and hitting him twice with a stapler. The woman also said Gordon picked her up after she blocked a doorway into an office copy room, hitting her head on the door frame.

Gordon's statement said he had grabbed the employee's arm after she showed him a red mark, but that she wasn't hurt and was in good spirits. He also said he didn't think the woman had hit her head on the door, and that she hit him with hole puncher after he put her down.

Harvey said the allegations against Gordon, a police officer for 14 years, have "no merit."

"Why would he assault someone he didn't know in a county office building? The allegations make no sense, and we intend on defending them vigorously," Harvey said.

Statements from two other employees at the office both described Gordon as playful, but never violent. One said they saw Gordon grab the woman's arm through the window, but neither reported seeing Gordon pull her hair or grab her again once she entered the office.

Gordon was fired by the Hardeeville Police Department on Dec. 28, 2012, according to the SLED report.

Between the date of the alleged assault and his dismissal, Gordon filed suit against Ridgeland in U.S. District Court. Gordon accuses Police Chief Richard Woods and Capt. Frank Mador of denying him promotions that went to less-experienced white officers because he is black.

Both Woods and Mador declined to comment on Gordon's lawsuit.

Gordon worked for the Ridgeland Police Department from August 2005 until his firing in March 2010. After an unsuccessful run for Hampton County sheriff in the 2010 Democratic primary, he was hired by the Hardeeville Police Department in October 2010.

Harvey said the criminal charge against Gordon has no bearing on his lawsuit.

Follow reporter Matt McNab at twitter.com/IPBG_Matt.

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