SLED to investigate firefighter incident

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By Brian Garner

S.C. Attorney General Alan Wilson's office has asked the State Law Enforcement Division to open an investigation into the Feb. 14 altercation between two West Chester firefighters and Chester County Sheriff Alex Underwood and deputies led to assault charges for Andrew and Thomas Martin, the two firefighters.
According to Mark Powell, the communications director for the Attorney General's office, both Underwood and the Chester County Fire Chief's Association requested that the AG's office investigate the issue.
The Fire Chief's Association sent the Attorney General's office a letter and Sheriff Underwood's office also communicated with them, Powell confirmed.
In the letter to the Attorney General's office, Mark Moore, the attorney representing the Chief's Association said, 'the (Association) has substantial concerns about the events that occurred in Chester County...that led to the unfortunate decision to arrest Chief (Andrew) Martin and his brother.
'The (Association) respectfully requests that your office refer this matter to the SLED for an investigation to determine whether any person obstructed the operations of the West Chester Fire Department during the time period (the Department) was in charge of an emergency on February 14 and 15, 2014.
'We also request that your office and SLED determine whether any person has violated (South Carolina law) or has committed the offense of common-law misconduct in office.'
Moore comment this week that “the Chester County Fire Chief's Association has the utmost confidence in SLED and the Attorney General's Office and is confident that they will look fairly and impartially into this matter.”
SLED Spokesman Thom Berry said that the law enforcement agency has opened an investigation into the incident. He said it would be a standard investigation which included interviewing witnesses, gathering and examining any other types of evidence.
He did not have any idea when the investigation might be concluded and a report made to the Attorney General, he said.
Moore's letter, in depicting the events as they occurred says "Chief Martin requested assistance from the Chester County Sheriff's Office through a 911 operator and was originally told that the…office did not have any officers available to respond. After Chief Martin expressed his concerns, Sheriff Underwood and a number of members of his command staff chose to come to the scene. Words were exchanged and an altercation ensued." Incident reports versions of what happened differ somewhat, not noting a lack of officers available to respond to the scene. Moore's letter also makes reference to a recording of the incident that exists. The recording was said to have been made by a South Carolina Highway Patrol officers on scene. The News & Reporter has requested a copy of that recording.