A lawsuit by man who claims Beaufort County sheriff's deputies broke his vertebrae and severed his spinal cord during an arrest in August 2010 appears headed to court.
Ronald Ballard's lawsuit alleges that force used by deputies during his arrest paralyzed him.
The Beaufort County Sheriff's Office denies Ballard's allegations.
Ballard was taken into custody near Woodhaven Drive on Hilton Head Island after an intoxicated altercation with a man Ballard allegedly had struck. While deputies were escorting him to the patrol car, Ballard kicked out at the other man, but he made no contact and ended up back on the ground.
The lawsuit characterizes Ballard as compliant, and says he "voluntarily confirmed his identity, did not flee" and only kicked after the other man approached him and "began to taunt him verbally."
The suit alleges that after being restrained face-down on the ground, a deputy "used his knee to thrust his full body weight onto Ballard's neck at the base of the skull.
"As a result of the impact of the deputy's knee, a loud cracking noise emanated from Ronald Ballard's neck and his cervical vertebrae broke, severing his spinal cord and leaving Ballard paralyzed," the suit says.
Deputies summoned medical help after Ballard said he could not feel his legs.
The Sheriff's Office incident report describes Ballard as combative but does not say whether a deputy used his knee to subdue Ballard or otherwise specify how he was injured.
Deputies wrote Ballard swore and waved his middle fingers at them. He refused to comply with commands, even after they threatened to shock him with a stun gun.
The two deputies, Christopher Cook and Stuart Mankin, continued to work for the Sheriff's Office, though Cook left for another job last year, according to Beaufort County Sheriff P.J. Tanner.
Ballard sued the two deputies and the Sheriff's Office in federal court in November 2010. His attorney, Dick Harpootlian of Columbia, said Ballard, now a quadriplegic, is "looking forward to his day in court."
Tanner said Ballard did not file a complaint after the arrest, so it was not investigated.
Under current procedure, Tanner said, any injury to a suspect is noted on a separate "use of force" form, which is reviewed later. But that system was not in place in 2010 when Ballard was arrested.
After months of legal wrangling, jury selection is scheduled for March, with the trial to follow May 14 in Charleston.
Follow reporter Kyle Peterson at twitter.com/EyeOnBeaufortCo.