South Carolina Police Wrongly Detain Artist-in-Residence They Mistook for an Intruder, Police Chief Says it was a ‘Misstep’

South Carolina artist is speaking out after Columbia police detained him in handcuffs according to WLTX 19. Police officers believed the artist was an intruder. John Sims is an artist-in-residence at 701 CCA and the facility allows the artist to sleep and work there while his art is being displayed.

The Columbia Police Department says officers noticed the main door into the building was propped open at 2 a.m. Police claims an patrol officer was joined by other officers before conducting a search in the building to check for crimes in progress or anyone in distress. After the department’s protocols, the officers entered the building with guns drawn.
Before going to the second floor of the building, officers shouted commands for the person to come out and identify themselves. Then while the officers searched the building, the police officers officers woke Sims up.
“I saw lights in the window. I’m thinking-they’re coming from outside,” Sims said. “I’m thinking they’re protesters, confederate, neo-Nazi’s, white supremacists coming in the space, responding to my work, coming to my show.”
Sims’ apartment is near the art gallery where his work is displayed. The theme of his latest project is political activism according to the news outlet. The officers entered Sims’ residence, and he made himself visible to the officers. Sims asked what was happening and the officers told him to show his hands and to face away from them. With guns drawn, officers approached Sims in his loft and put him in handcuffs.

“I could’ve been shot,” Sims said. “I could’ve been killed if I moved the wrong way, if I have a medical condition, or I’ve been sleeping, I was startled. We see countless individuals who don’t survive. I am happy to still be alive.”

According to police officials, the officers did not know 701 Whaley was available to artists-in-residence. Michaela Pilar Brown, the Executive Director of 701 CCA said said this isn’t the first time an artist-in-residence has stayed there.
“We’ve been open for 12 years,” she said. “And in that time, we’ve always had an artist in residence, and I believe there have been apartments in this space in that time.”
Police Chief Skip Holbrook said he reviewed the incident and concluded that “CPD officers conducted themselves professionally and within policy. The only misstep was when the on-scene supervisor did not agree to allow the artist to take pictures of officers.”

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