SLED releases report on Nathaniel Rhodes arrest, death; officer will not be charged

Charleston County News

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) No criminal charges will be filed against a Charleston Police officer in the arrest and death of Nathaniel Rhodes in August of 2018.

According to a press release from the Charleston Police Department on Wednesday shows an independent investigation through the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division determined that no criminal charges will be brought against officer Paul Kelly.

Last year, Nathaniel was taken into custody following a crash that happened in August of 2018.

Rhodes, 58, was placed on a stretcher and transported to the hospital, but Kelly signed a ‘refusal to transport’ waiver so that they could instead conduct a sobriety test after finding an open container in Rhodes’ vehicle.

That form should have been signed by the patient and not an officer.

Rhodes was taken to Charleston Police Headquarters where they administered a breathalyzer test. While there, he complained of severe pain and passed out. He was later transported to a hospital where he fell into a coma and died four days later.

Investigators later learned Rhodes suffered eight broken ribs and a ruptured liver in the accident.


According to the report, SLED reached the following conclusions about the case:

  • Charleston County EMS was the first on the scene and EMS personnel evaluated Mr. Rhodes for possible injuries. EMS personnel documented no complaints and no visible injuries.
  • Mr. Rhodes told EMS personnel that he wished to be transported to the hospital for further evaluation.
  • When Ofc. Kelly arrived on the scene, Mr. Rhodes was being evaluated by EMS in the back of the ambulance.
  • Ofc. Kelly observed an open container of alcohol in Mr. Rhodes’ vehicle. Ofc. Kelly informed EMS personnel that he wished to conduct a field sobriety test on Mr. Rhodes.
  • Mr. Rhodes left the ambulance without assistance and took field sobriety tests, which he failed.
  • Ofc. Kelly then placed Mr. Rhodes under arrest for DUI.
  • Because Mr. Rhodes had indicated a desire for medical treatment, EMS personnel informed Ofc. Kelly that they could not release Mr. Rhodes without a signature acknowledging a refusal of treatment.
  • Ofc. Kelly, using his own name in the space for signature labeled “Patient or Guardian,” electronically signed the EMS refusal of treatment form.
  • Mr. Rhodes was then transported to the CPD for a breathalyzer test.
  • Mr. Rhodes collapsed at the CPD and was described as “in and out” of consciousness.
  • EMS was contacted and Mr. Rhodes was taken to the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC).
  • Mr. Rhodes was hospitalized for four days, diagnosed traumatic hemothorax, cloleperitonitis, concussion with loss of consciousness of unspecified duration, and multiple fractures of ribs on the right side.
  • Mr. Rhodes cause of death was determined to be blunt force trauma to the abdomen.
  • There is no dash camera or body warn footage of the events that transpired at the accident site. Any footage that may have existed regarding this scene was tagged as an “Accidental” recording and was deleted in accordance with CPD policy.
  • The footage was not viewed or edited prior to deletion.
  • Ofc. Kelly provided no statement and refused to be interviewed.


An internal investigation was conducted by the Charleston Police Department Office of Professional Standards. It found that Kelly violated department policy in this case, which resulted in his demotion and reassignment to a non-sworn position within the police department.


Attorneys Justin Bamberg and Christy Fargnoli, who are representing Rhodes’ family, released a statement to Count on 2 which reads:

The family of Nathaniel Rhodes is pleased that this tragic, unnecessary incident was investigated, albeit after the family had to come forth publicly.  While the investigation’s findings that the officer’s actions that day were indeed wrong, nothing can ever replace this family’s loss.  It is heartening to know that this officer will be remanded to a desk job, which will potentially save other lives.

We commend the leadership Chief Reynolds and City of Charleston officials have displayed, and we hope it continues as we work towards amicably resolving the family’s civil claims.  

The bottom line is that if this officer had placed Mr. Rhodes’ safety above his own selfish interests, this family would likely be sharing happy times with their loved one right now. 

Our hope is that this incident results in dramatic changes to the way the Charleston Police Dept. deals with the citizens its officers are sworn to protect. 

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