Army probing video of Black man harassed by soldier

COLUMBIA, S.C. — Officials at U.S. Army’s largest basic training facility say they are looking into a video that appears to show a non-commissioned officer accosting and shoving a Black man in a South Carolina neighborhood.

The video, posted Monday by a woman on Facebook and shared over 3,700 times, shows a man demanding that a Black man leave the neighborhood before threatening him with physical violence.

“You’re in the wrong neighborhood,” the man, standing on the sidewalk, can be heard saying to the other man before using an expletive. “I ain’t playing with you. … I’m about to show you what I can do.”

According to Shirell Johnson, who posted the video, the incident happened in a subdivision of The Summit, which has a Columbia address but is technically outside the city’s limits. The video does not show what started the conflict. Johnson did not immediately respond to a message from The Associated Press seeking further details.

The recording begins with the man — who appears to be U.S. Army Staff Sergeant Jonathan Pentland, a drill instructor who is also depicted in some social media postings from the base — asking the Black man what he’s doing in the area. The Black man says he was simply walking and not bothering anyone.

Throughout the three-minute video, the man who appears to be Pentland continuously demands that the other man leave the neighborhood, getting in his face and, at one point, pushing the man, who almost falls to the ground.

“Let’s go, walk away,” he said. “I’m about to do something to you. You better start walking right now.”

At the end of the video, a woman that the man identifies as his wife can be heard telling the other man that he had picked a fight with “some random young lady” in the neighborhood, a claim the Black man then denies.

Johnson said authorities arrived at the scene and only gave the man appearing to be Pentland a citation for malicious injury to property for slapping the man’s phone out of his hand and cracking it.

According to social media accounts connected to Pentland, he has been stationed at Fort Jackson since 2019 and has worked as a drill sergeant at the garrison, a 53,000-acre complex that trains 50% of all soldiers and 60% of women who enter the Army each year.

Asked on Twitter for his response to the video, Fort Jackson Commanding Brig. Gen. Milford H. Beagle Jr. said the behavior displayed in the video “is by no means condoned by any service member.”

“We will get to the bottom of this ASAP,” he said.

On his official Facebook page, Beagle said Army officials “have begun our own investigation and are working with the local authorities.”

Earlier this year, the Department of Defense announced that Beagle would take over as commanding general at Fort Drum, New York, to be succeeded at Fort Jackson by Brig. Gen. Patrick R. Michaelis. An official transfer date has not been announced.

Commenters on the video said they had reached out to the Richland County Sheriff’s Department asking for additional charges to be filed. In a release issued early Wednesday, a department spokeswoman said deputies had been dispatched to the neighborhood for “an assault” call involving one of the men several days before the date of the video, and that all of the matters were under investigation.

Deputies did not respond Wednesday to further questions about their investigation or if either man faced charges. In a statement posted Wednesday, deputies said Sheriff Leon Lott would be discussing the incident with elected officials and community representatives and called the video “very disturbing.”

Pentland did not immediately respond to an email message seeking comment.

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Meg Kinnard can be reached at http://twitter.com/MegKinnardAP.

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