Myrtle Beach Police Vehicle

Photo by Ian Livingston Brooking

An Horry County man is suing the Myrtle Beach Police Department for civil rights violations, alleging a wrongful arrest cost him his job, unemployment benefits and legal fees.

The lawsuit stated that Ronald Thomas Uhrie was leaving a gas station in August 2020 when he noticed a woman “frantically waving in the parking lot” through his truck window.

He drove up to her and asked if she needed assistance, and the woman said she “needed more.” When Uhrie asked for clarification, she said, "$20.00 for oral sex."

According to the filing, Uhrie “rolled up his window and left.” But, a mile down the road, it added, he would be pulled over by MBPD Pfc. Mohammed Channani and “arrested for Prostitution, 1st Offense and Possession of 28 grams or less of marijuana.” 

The woman, who was not named in the lawsuit, was an undercover police officer.

Uhrie denied having solicited a prostitute or possessed marijuana, and after over a year of legal proceedings, he was either found not guilty or had the charges dismissed. Now, he is alleging MBPD knowingly arrested him on false pretenses, provided false testimony about the parking lot encounter and violated his constitutional rights.

“The Defendants falsely stated in Court that the Plaintiff had solicited the officer,” Uhrie’s filing read. “The Defendants intentionally violated the Plaintiff’s civil rights, maliciously prosecuted, and abused the process in order to charge the Plaintiff with prostitution and possession.”

Citing the case’s lasting impact on his livelihood, Uhrie also accused the department of causing emotional distress, reputational damage and loss of past and future employment.

His filing noted that in addition to covering his bond, he had to hire a lawyer and pay towing and impounding fees to retrieve his vehicle. He was then fired from Sunbelt Rentals, where he had worked as a diesel mechanic, and denied unemployment benefits because he was terminated for cause.

According to the lawsuit, the “termination for cause was based on the false pretenses and false statements presented by Officer Channani.”

“The Defendants intentionally violated the Plaintiff’s civil rights, maliciously prosecuted, and abused the process in order to charge the Plaintiff with prostitution and possession,” the filing reads. “The Defendants by actions and omissions maliciously pursued the false charges, false accusations, destruction of the Plaintiff’s reputation.”

A year before the arrest, Channani was nominated for Myrtle Beach’s Police Officer of the Year award.

Asked about the lawsuit, Myrtle Beach Spokesman Mark Kruea said the city does not typically comment on pending litigation.

Uhrie is seeking past and future lost wages and benefits, front pay, compensatory and consequential damages, fees and costs for the false accusations and attorney’s fees.

He is represented by attorney Bonnie Hunt, who could not be immediately reached for comment.

Separately, Hunt is representing plaintiffs in two civil rights lawsuits against the Horry County Police Department. The lawsuits, both of which were filed by former HCPD employees, are linked by an internal discrimination complaint that resulted in two terminations.

About a year before former HCPD employee Euriziel Everett filed a suit alleging she faced retaliation after lodging a discrimination complaint, Raul Denis, who served multiple roles in the department between 1996 and 2020, had filed a suit alleging retaliation for testifying in a discrimination case with the same nature, time frame and outcome.

When MyHorryNews.com first reported on the lawsuit in September, Hunt declined to comment on whether Denis’ filing referred to Everett’s discrimination complaint, citing pending litigation — but confirmed that Denis would testify in Everett’s case.

“We plan on proving every claim in court,” she said at the time.

Both Everett and Denis also alleged a larger pattern of retaliation, racial discrimination and law-breaking within the department.

HCPD declined to comment, though it has denied the allegations in court filings.

You can reach Jonathan Haynes securely over Signal at 910-679-6902, send him encrypted files through Keybase at https://keybase.io/jonathanhaynes, or contact him via email at jonathan.haynes@myhorrynews.com. You can find him on twitter at @jphjournalist.

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