SURFSIDE BEACH, S.C. (WBTW) — A former Surfside Beach police officer who allegedly falsified a police report was allowed to resign instead of being fired following a review, according to documents obtained by News13.
Former Cpl. Kyle Lundgren was set to be fired on June 21 for “misconduct and performance issues” following an internal investigation, documents obtained by News13 through a Freedom of Information Act request show. Lundgren then filed a grievance, and a grievance hearing was held on July 27, which allowed him to resign in lieu of his firing.
Lundgren officially resigned on Aug. 4, according to documents from the South Carolina Criminal Justice Academy.
Lundgren and the officer he was training made a DUI arrest on April 20, documents show. When filing the report, the officer in training noticed a bottle of whiskey in the vehicle that was nearly full and noted that in the report. However, documents suggest Lundgren changed that report to say that the bottle was empty.
The bottle was not taken in for evidence. Lundgren told the officer that it needs to be addressed at the time of the arrest, and that leaving the bottle was an evidence policy violation and they could potentially get in trouble due to leaving evidence in the vehicle, according to the grievance.
The officer he trained then alleged that Lundgren “knowingly and intentionally altered an incident report,” which Sgt. John Gambone ruled to be unfounded on May 12, documents show.
“I believe that both parties were trying to accurately change the report to reflect their perception of the bottle’s contents,” Gambone said in the report. “I have nothing to indicate either party is being untruthful, rather just two different opinions on the bottle’s context.”
When Gambone asked Lundgren why the bottle was not collected for evidence, Lundgren said he thought it was empty. Gambone, who was sued last year over possible excessive force and civil rights violations in a separate case, scolded Lundgren’s reason for potentially being in trouble with the command staff as “unacceptable,” saying “Lundgren is a supervisor and needs to take responsibility instead of making excuses.”
According to other documents, in July 2022, Lt. Gilbert Williams wrote a memorandum for an early intervention to Police Chief Kenneth Hofmann about three previous disciplinary infractions committed by Lundgren.
The three violations happened in February, April and May 2022, according to documents. The one in February was for a “lack of judgement and poor performance for failing to handle a citizen call for service.”
The April one was for “lack of judgement and poor performance for engaging in a vehicle pursuit in violation of orders,” the documents show. The May one was for a “lack of judgement and poor performance for failing to properly supervise and intervene in another officer’s pursuit.”
Williams told Hofmann in the memorandum that Lundgren “fully acknowledges the policy violation that occurred” in April and May, but thought that the disciplinary action in February “was not warranted and that it was silly.”
10 days before the DUI arrest incident, Hofmann sent an email about an “informal discipline notification” to Lundgren and Gambone, asking Gambone to remind Lundgren that golf carts cannot be allowed to drive away from a traffic stop at night after being stopped.
Hofmann said the order was either not delivered or not followed, both of which he called in the email “serious issues.” The incident happened while Lundgren and the officer he trained were on patrol together.
Hofmann called the behavior “unacceptable” and “destructive to this important time” in the training officer’s career.
Lundgren said in an email on April 15 that he took “full responsibility” for not following the order.
Lundgren said in his grievance that he put in an application to work for Horry County police on June 21 when he was told he was being fired.
After the grievance hearing, which was comprised of a panel including Municipal Judge Chris Arakas, now-former Fire Chief Rob Clemons and Public Works Director John Adair, Arakas said it was “clear and convincing to the panel that Kyle Lundgren’s alleged illicit actions while performing his duties as a Surfside Beach Police Field Training Officer were not proven or did not reach the level of termination.”
When reached for comment Friday, Chief Hofmann provided this statement to News13:
The Surfside Beach Police Department stands on the facts of the matter and stands behind its decision. We also respect the process and the findings of the grievance committee that granted a resignation in lieu of a termination.
As of last week, Lundgren has not joined another South Carolina law enforcement agency.
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Caleb is a digital producer at News13. Caleb joined the team in January 2023 after graduating from Liberty University. He is from Northern Virginia. Follow Caleb on Twitter and read more of his work here.