Officer pleads innocence in "mishandled" sexual assault case

By Valencia

FOLLY BEACH, S.C. (WCIV){}-- Folly Beach officer Ron Avallone told his side of a sexual assault case during a grievance hearing held in front of a packed house Monday.

Avallone{}is accused of mishandling the case. He was suspended back in July.

The hearing was much like a court trial. For more than two hours the public heard both sides of the incident along with witness testimony.

Public Safety Chief Dennis Brown began the trial with his testimony saying Officer Avallone fell outside of the expected standards, demonstrated poor judgment and showed little competency and thoroughness.

Police documents show Avallone was called to a disturbance near Folly Pier where a 67-year old suspect allegedly inappropriately touched a 13-year old girl. Avallone did not arrest the man.

An hour and a half later police say that same suspect sexually assaulted a woman at a pool.

Chief Brown says Avallone did not treat the case as a sexual assault case should have been treated.

"Avallone did allow harm to fall upon a resident of our community by not conducting a complete investigation," said Brown. "This harm could have absolutely been prevented if he had only completed the basic investigory steps that is required of a reasonable officer."

Officer Avallone responded by saying the call went in to him as a "suspicious man harassing people." He said had no idea there was a situation of sexual assault and that the sexual assault allegation was later addressed by another officer.

"During this incident I believe I handled this incident thoroughly and resolved the matter with the complainants, which was the first complaint. And, it was the first call."

Members on the grievance committee listened to the audio of the initial call. During the hearing they said the call to Avallone made no mention of "sexual assault".

Charlie Vance made the call into public safety.

"In my opinion I think Officer Avallone did what he was supposed to do," said Vance. "Mr. Rogers [the suspect] was pointing and yelling at our lifeguards. So, I don't expect him while there's a guy sitting there screaming at a family for him to sit there and take statements."

Avallone served as a public safety officer, detective and victim's advocate.

Avallone was given one-week suspension and later resigned as a detective.

Chief brown says Avallone's resignation was not based on this incident. {}

The grievance committee has 20 days to make a recommendation to town council.

During the hearing, Vance said he was approached by Chief Brown and a public safety sergeant today before the trial.

Vance said he has filed a formal complaint to the Department of Human Resources.