Posted on August 24, 2021

Suspended Fort Jackson Drill Sergeant Found Guilty of Assault on Black Man

David Travis Bland and Lucas Daprile, Tribune News Service, August 24, 2021

A judge found suspended Fort Jackson Army Sgt. Jonathan Pentland guilty Monday of assaulting a Black man in a northeast Columbia neighborhood in an incident that spawned protests, riled emotions and captured national attention.

After a two-day bench trial at Richland County magistrate court on Decker Boulevard, Judge Diedra Hightower gave the guilty verdict for third-degree assault and battery, a misdemeanor.

Pentland was sentenced to either 30 days in prison or a fine of $1,087. {snip}

The Richland County Sheriff’s Department charged Pentland days after video hit social media showing the Army sergeant yelling at the man and telling him to get out of the Barony Place neighborhood in the Summit. Sheriff Leon Lott said Pentland became physical with the man, warranting a third degree assault and battery charge. Witnesses testified that they saw Pentland shove and hit the person on the arm.

The incident was seen by some as another moment of racism against a Black man. Black community groups gathered outside Pentland’s house to express their anger after the video was publicized.

Pentland’s attorney, Benjamin Allen Stitely, argued that the altercation was based on behavior by the alleged victim before cameras were turned on and that Pentland was justified in his actions.

Stitely decried the way people labeled Pentland “a bully and a racist. He was defending his family and friends,” Stitely said.

Several witnesses said Williams was acting “erratic” or volatile before the incident. {snip}


Kimberly Hernandez, who lives in The Summit, testified that in the days before the event several of her family members had disturbing encounters with Williams.

Williams frequently approached one of Hernandez’s daughters while she was walking the dog throughout the neighborhood, Hernandez testified.


On a separate encounter, Williams allegedly picked up a baby belonging to Hernandez’s daughter-in law, she testified.

Following the incident where Williams allegedly picked up the baby, Hernandez’s daughter-in-law went outside on April 12 — the day of the incident — and confronted Williams, saying he had no permission to touch her child.


The daughter-in-law came back but Williams followed, Hernandez said.

“He was angry by the time he approached me. He was already erratic and jumping back and forth. He was telling me he did nothing wrong,” Hernandez said.

Williams was yelling so loud and got so close to Hernandez, he was unintentionally spitting in her face, she testified.


After seeing Hernandez and Williams arguing, neighbor Renee Wilson testified that she called 911 after hearing a man and a woman screaming louder and louder at each other.

The woman, Hernandez, cried out yelling for someone to call 911, Wilson testified.

“It just seemed like it was about to get worse,” said Wilson, who is Black.

Around the time Wilson called 911, Hernandez and Williams stopped their argument and Hernandez went over to Pentland’s house, ringing the doorbell and banging on the door, multiple witnesses said.


According to First Sgt. Walter Shawn McDaniels, the Richland County Sheriff’s Department employee who signed Pentland’s arrest warrant, the video speaks for itself.


From the perspective of the defense and several neighbors, Williams had been “belligerent” leading up to the evening of April 12. Pentland testified that when Hernandez went to get him, she told Pentland that Williams had been scaring women in the neighborhood.

When Pentland arrived, he saw Williams “in the face” of a neighbor and got between Williams.

Williams, witnesses say, was preparing to strike or verbally attack the women, who were three or four feet behind Pentland. As a result, Pentland pushed Williams to keep him from possibly hurting his wife or neighbors, he said.

“I would have never put my hands on him other than self-defense,” Pentland testified Monday.

At the end of the confrontation, when Williams was walking away, Williams points his phone at Pentland’s house and mentioned coming back, according to testimony from Pentland, Hernandez, Wilson and Pentland’s wife.

When his attorney asked Pentland if he saw this as a threat, he said, “It was a direct threat to me and my family, 100%…There was no question in my mind he was going to be back.”

Pentland then swatted the phone out of Williams’ hand. Pentland testified he didn’t physically touch Williams, but Williams said Pentland caught his arm.


The defense also claimed police made several. mistakes in conducting the investigation. While on the stand, McDaniels admitted he did not obtain audio from the original 911 call to see why police were called in the first place.


“In all these investigations, when the sheriff had already made a warrant, not one of them came and asked the people who lived there what happened,” Stitely said {snip}