March 21, 2008 -- Dash-cam videos that appear to show South Carolina highway troopers twice using their cars as weapons to run down black suspects have sparked a federal investigation and public outrage this week.
The U.S. Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division, along with the U.S. Attorney's Office in South Carolina, is investigating both cases caught on tape.
In one video from June 2007, Lance Cpl. Steven C. Garren can be seen chasing a fleeing suspect down a darkened street, using his police cruiser to knock the man to the pavement.
The man, who is black, flips over the car's hood and into high grass on the roadside.
"Yeah, I hit him. I was trying to hit him," Garren, who is white, can be heard telling another trooper later on the tape.
In another incident in April 2007, Lance Cpl. Alexander Richardson plowed across a neighborhood sidewalk with a playground mere feet away. Again the white cop used his car to bump the black man. The man stumbles when hit and then continues to run.
At one point another man and a small child can be seen on the same video jumping for cover from the police vehicle.
On average, 300 deaths occur each year, as the result of approximately 30,000 police chases, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Nobody died in the South Carolina incidents, but the recently released videos have sparked outrage.
"This type of renegade and 'Rambo' policing should not be allowed by any agency. … Even with the cameras there is no respect for the law," said Lonnie Randolph Jr., from the South Carolina NAACP.
The South Carolina Department of Public Safety says it doesn't condone this conduct and welcomes any investigation.
"If there is a federal investigation, as has been mentioned, it will prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that there is no systemic misconduct in the patrol. There was a problem, we dealt with it," said Sid Gaulden of the South Carolina Department of Public Safety.
The Associated Press reports that disciplinary records show that troopers involved have been punished. Garren received a three-day suspension, which he has appealed. Richardson was reprimanded and completed a stress management course.
The investigation comes just weeks after two leaders of the agency resigned because of a furor over a trooper's use of a racial slur.
In February, the South Carolina Department of Public Safety released videos that showed abuse of black suspects by troopers. One white Greenwood County trooper was caught on tape yelling at a black suspect, "You better run, n-word. I'm fixin' to kill you."
Public Safety Director James K. Schweitzer and Highway Patrol Col. Russell Roark resigned after the release of the Greenwood County video under pressure from Gov. Mark Sanford days later.