Fort Jackson soldier charged with assault after confronting Black man is suspended from duties

This April 14, 2021, booking photo provided by the Richland County, S.C., detention center shows Jonathan Pentland, a U.S. Army staff sergeant charged with third-degree assault and battery after a video went viral depicting him accosting and shoving a Black man in a South Carolina neighborhood.


By COREY DICKSTEIN | STARS AND STRIPES Published: April 15, 2021

The Fort Jackson drill sergeant charged with assault by local law enforcement Wednesday after a widely shared video showed him shoving and yelling at a young Black man has been removed from his duties, officials at the South Carolina Army post said Thursday.

Army Sgt. 1st Class Jonathan Pentland, 42, will remain suspended barring the outcome of an Army investigation into the incident and the outcome of the criminal charges filed against him by the Richland County Sheriff’s Office, according to L.A. Sully, a spokeswoman for the Army training post near Columbia, South Carolina’s capital. Pentland, who is white, faces a third-degree assault and battery charge, a misdemeanor which carries up to a $500 fine and a 30-day jail sentence.

Pentland was released from jail late Wednesday on a $2,125 personal recognizance bond, according to court records. Sully said he was transferred into the custody of Fort Jackson officials.

In the video of the incident, which by Thursday had been viewed more than 5 million times on social media, Pentland is seen yelling at a young Black man, telling him to leave his neighborhood and at one point pushing him. The video does not capture the entire incident, but Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott described Pentland as “the aggressor” in the incident.

"It was terrible. It was unnecessary," Lott said. "The young man was a victim.”

Lott declined to name the victim or describe what sheriff’s investigators believe occurred before the video was recorded. Nothing that happened off camera “justified the assault that occurred,” the sheriff said.

The incident comes as the Army — and the military, as a whole — has worked in recent months to reinforce the importance of diversity and inclusion within its ranks amid a nation-wide focus on race relations after the killing last Memorial Day of George Floyd by Minneapolis police.

Last year, senior Army officials instructed commanders and leaders to hold frank conversations about race and diversity within their units. The effort was known as Project Inclusion, which was meant, in part, to help soldiers of differing backgrounds understand others’ life experiences, top officials have said, acknowledging racial issues exist within their ranks.

Brig. Gen. Milford Beagle, Jr., Fort Jackson’s commander, said Pentland’s actions captured in the video broke with Army values.

"Soldier conduct on and off duty must be exemplary to retain the trust of our communities and our nation," Beagle said in a statement Thursday. "Fort Jackson continues to work with and support Sheriff Lott, our local law professionals, and community and civil leadership as this case moves forward."

The sheriff’s office also said Thursday that it was forced to move Pentland’s family from their home to an undisclosed location, after protests outside their house grew violent. The soldier’s house was vandalized, with a window and an outside light broken as protestors threw items at the home.

Twitter: @CDicksteinDC