RICHLAND COUNTY, S.C. — Trouble came early for Freddie Grant, the 52-year-old Elgin man accused of kidnapping Richland County teenager Gabrielle Swainson.
By the time he was 20, Grant had landed in the military’s infamous Fort Leavenworth prison after he cut another soldier with a razor and then kidnapped two other soldiers while he was in custody, holding them at bay with an M-16. He had been in the Army less than two years.
Earlier this week, a federal magistrate denied Grant a bond on a charge of being a felon in possession of ammunition, citing Grant’s military convictions in her decision.
Those military crimes also could lead to a stiffer sentence on the ammunition charge if Grant is convicted and a judge determines he is an armed career criminal.
Grant has pleaded not guilty and is awaiting trial on that charge. Grant’s defense attorneys, John Delgado and Fielding Pringle, declined comment for this story.
The State newspaper obtained 206 pages of Grant’s military legal documents through a Freedom of Information Act request to the U.S. Army. Those documents show Grant’s military career was checkered with problems almost from the beginning.
Grant enlisted in the Army in January 1979 and went through basic training at Fort Jackson.
He went on to Fort Dix, N.J., where he was trained to be a mechanic. After his training was complete in the spring of 1979, Grant was sent to Korea.
In a little more than a year, Grant already had faced five Article 15 disciplinary hearings for violations ranging from failing to report for duty to possession of marijuana, according to the military documents.
But he got into his first major trouble with the military on Feb. 6, 1980, when he attacked another soldier with a straight razor.
According to Grant’s court-martial documents, the other soldier and his wife were standing outside a nightclub in the village of Yongjugol in Korea, when they heard someone yelling. They turned to see Grant approaching with a three-inch straight razor in his hand.
The soldier kicked Grant to fend off the attack. The two wrestled until Grant pinned the soldier against a wall and cut him across middle of his forehead, down his temple and through his earlobe. The wound required 33 stitches and a four-day hospitalization, according to the victim’s statements.
A military policeman who arrived at the scene chased Grant and arrested him. As the military policeman and his Korean counterpart loaded a handcuffed Grant into their truck, he kicked the military policeman in the chest, causing bruising, documents said.
Grant got into more trouble while awaiting trial.
On April 22, 1980, two soldiers were escorting Grant from a military hospital in Korea to meet with his lawyer. On the way to the meeting, Grant slammed his body into the back of the front passenger seat. When the soldier sitting there lost his grip on his M-16 rifle, Grant grabbed it, the documents said.
Grant and the two soldiers tussled over the gun. Grant gained control and ordered the driver to start the Jeep. But the Jeep’s engine had stalled, and the driver was panicked. Grant fired the M-16, sending a round through one of the Jeep’s windows, according to legal documents.
Grant forced the soldiers to drive around South Korea, often passing through Korean military checkpoints, as he pointed the gun at the back of the soldier in the front passenger seat.
“He was locked and loaded right in the middle of my back,” the soldier stated in a written report.
After three hours, Grant took the rifle, $20, and the uniform jacket and cap of the soldier who had signed for the Jeep and drove away. The soldiers began walking in another direction, fearing that Grant would turn around and come back for them.
“I believe Grant would have killed both me and (the other soldier),” said the soldier whose gun was stolen. “The reason I say this is that he was very nervous and confused. He was not the same man that I knew earlier. If I have a weapon pointed at my side, I believe that I’m going to be killed.”
Grant was on the lam for two days before he was captured.
In a handwritten request that he be discharged rather than face a court-martial, Grant said that he had not been able to get a feel for the Army. He said he had a drug problem and had attempted to get help but was consistently unable to receive it.
“I realized that I will not be able or worthy of going home to my family,” Grant wrote.
His request was denied.
Grant’s court-martial lasted less than a day.
During the court-martial, Grant told a military trial officer that he was born in Miami and had completed 11 grades of school. He said he had an older brother who served in the Army and that he had enlisted to get himself on a “better track than what I was,” according to the court-martial transcript.
Grant, who was then 20, told the judge he helped support his mother and a 5-year-old daughter. He also said he was having trouble adjusting to being away from home.
The military judge sentenced Grant to eight years and nine months of hard labor at Fort Leavenworth and took away his pay and allowances. He also gave Grant a dishonorable discharge.
However, Grant served less than a year before he was released from Fort Leavenworth on April 20, 1980, according to his military service record. The documents do not say why he got out early.
The military charges were the beginning of a rap sheet that now includes convictions in two states for a variety of charges, including cocaine distribution, cocaine possession and criminal domestic violence. Until Grant was accused of kidnapping Swainson, who disappeared Aug. 18, most of the charges against him have carried small penalties.
A county warrant on a charge of kidnapping Swainson has been issued but not yet served on Grant.
Richland County investigators said Swainson’s hair and blood have been found on duct tape in Grant’s home and in a nearby junkyard. During this week’s bond hearing in federal court, a federal investigator revealed that Swainson’s DNA also was discovered on a wine bottle and a plastic cup inside Grant’s Elgin home.
Lott said the military records show that Grant has led a life filled with criminal behavior.
“That indicates what a violent person he is and what he’s capable of doing,” Lott said.