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Pro-pot comment earns Facebook user a personalized arrest threat from South Carolina police chief

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A South Carolina police chief threatened a resident with possible arrest Thursday for making pro-legalization comments about marijuana in a Facebook post about a drug suspect’s arrest.

Interim Police Chief Ruben Santiago announced on the Facebook page for the Columbia Police Department that officers had seized about $40,000 in marijuana from an apartment during a drug investigation.

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But at least one person who follows the department’s social media page was less than thrilled, reported blogger Ken White at Popehat.

The blog posted a screen capture of a comment made by Facebook user Brandon Whitmer, who said, “maybe (police) should arrest the people shooting people in 5 points instead of worrying about a stoner that’s not bothering anyone. It’ll be legal here one day anyway.”

Someone with login credentials for the Columbia Police Department replied to Whitmer, saying, “(W)e have arrested all of the violent offenders in Five points. Thank you for sharing your views and giving us reasonable suspicion to believe you might be a criminal, we will work on finding you.”

That post was quickly deleted, the blog reported, but it was saved via screen capture by multiple Facebook users.

The department’s interim chief then identified himself in a follow-up comment made using the department’s account and said he’d made the post threatening Whitmer with possible arrest and blamed a subordinate for deleting it.

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“I put everyone on notice that if you advocate for the use of illegal substances in the City of Columbia then it’s reasonable to believe that you MIGHT also be involved in that particular activity, threat?” the chief said in his comment. “Why would someone feel threaten if you are not doing anything wrong? Apply the same concept to gang activity or gang members. You can have gang tattoos and advocate that life style, but that only makes me suspicious of them, I can’t do anything until they commit a crime. So feel free to express yourself, and I will continue to express myself and what we stand for. I am always open to hearing how our citizens feel like we can be effective in fighting crime.”

The department’s public information officer confirmed to White that the interim chief wrote both posts but said Santiago’s point may have been misunderstood.

“Chief was trying to say that he puts would-be-criminals on notice — if you commit a crime or plan to commit one, CPD will work hard to investigate and press charges according to the law,” said department spokeswoman Jennifer Timmons. “It’s easy for social media posts to be misunderstood. The man who was so-called threatened openly admitted that he was not offended and appreciated the work of CPD.”

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Timmons told The Raw Story that Whitmer made his comments in a subsequent Facebook post, but all of his comments in that thread, including the original post, have since been deleted.

The public information officer also said Friday afternoon that Santiago had contacted Whitner personally about his comments, which Timmons said were not intended to be malicious or offensive.

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Timmons also noted that Santiago started the Facebook page and interacts with commenters to engage the public and to help educate them on police matters.

Santiago filed a defamation suit in July against a police captain who accused him of plotting to plant illegal drugs and a stolen weapon inside a top city official’s vehicle.

Watch this video with Chief Ruben Santiago being introduced to the media earlier this year.

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Updated Friday afternoon with additional comments from the public information officer.


Report typos and corrections to: [email protected].
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Donald Trump’s lurch toward fascism is backfiring spectacularly

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Welcome to another edition of What Fresh Hell?, Raw Story’s roundup of news items that might have become controversies under another regime, but got buried – or were at least under-appreciated – due to the daily firehose of political pratfalls, unhinged tweet storms and other sundry embarrassments coming out of the current White House.

During the 2016 campaign, as Donald Trump railed against "Mexican rapists" and other "criminal aliens," pollsters found that the share of Americans who said that immigrants worked hard and made a positive contribution to our society increased significantly, and noticed a similar decline in the share who said they take citizens' jobs and burden our social safety net. After Trump was elected and began pursuing his Muslim ban, the share of respondents who held a positive view of Islam also increased pretty dramatically. I'm not aware of any polling of the general public about transgender troops serving in the military before Trump decided to discharge them, but Gallup found that 71 percent of respondents opposed his position after he did.

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Judge blocking release of Jeffrey Epstein records has ties to officials linked to Epstein: report

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On Saturday, the Miami Herald reported that a judge who blocked the release of grand jury material in the Jeffrey Epstein child sex abuse case has ties to three officials with a vested interest in the outcome of the lawsuits surrounding the scandal.

"Krista Marx, the Palm Beach chief judge who also heads a panel that polices judicial conduct, has potential conflicts of interest involving three prominent players embroiled in the Epstein sex-trafficking saga: State Attorney Dave Aronberg, who has been sued by the Palm Beach Post to release the grand jury records; Sheriff Ric Bradshaw, whose department’s favored treatment of Epstein while he was in the Palm Beach County jail is part of an ongoing state criminal investigation; and ex-State Attorney Barry Krischer, part of the same investigation in connection with his decision not to prosecute Epstein on child-sex charges," wrote Julie Brown, a reporter who has extensively covered the Epstein case.

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WATCH: Buffalo cops and firefighters cheer officers charged with assault as they leave the courthouse

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According to a report from both CNN and MSNBC, the two Buffalo police officers who were charged with second-degree assault after shoving a 75-year-old anti-police brutality protester to the ground where he sustained head injuries were greeted with applause after they were arraigned on Saturday morning.

MSNBC's Alex Witt noted that both officers were released without having to post bail.

According to ABC News, "Officers Aaron Torglaski and Robert McCabe were charged with second-degree assault during their video arraignments on Saturday and were released on their own recognizance. They both entered no guilty pleas and are expected back in court on July 20."

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