Charleston Thug Life Site Tied to Ex-North Charleston Police Officer Who Was Fired After Positive Drug Test

Former North Charleston police Sgt. Ray Garrison dusts for fingerprints after a bank robbery in September 2003. An investigation has named Garrison as the man behind the controversial Charleston Thug Life website.

State officials have closed their criminal investigation into the Charleston Thug Life website without filing charges, but their probe did shed light on one enduring mystery: the identity of the shadowy blogger known as “Chief.”

Computer and phone records obtained by State Law Enforcement Division agents reveal the Thug Life operator, who railed against criminals and prosecutors alike, was Ray Garrison, a former North Charleston police sergeant who was bounced off the force six years ago after testing positive for cocaine.

For 22 years, Garrison worked on the street, led the crime scene unit and served as an internal affairs investigator until his March 2011 firing. During a search of his North Charleston home last year, agents found autopsy photos, crime scene videos and surveillance recordings, along with a spiral notebook containing lists of suspects and criminal charges, a newly released SLED file shows.

The agents determined Garrison, 53, corresponded with several North Charleston police officers around the time a juvenile murder suspect’s name was leaked to the controversial blog, but investigators found no concrete evidence those officers were behind the breach of confidential information.

The leak had prompted SLED’s probe, and it proved to be the blog’s demise after four years of outing criminal suspects and stirring racial tensions.

In all, the agents interviewed some 30 North Charleston officers. Garrison’s son, Cpl. Justin Garrison, and former Sgt. Scott Wyant refused to talk and requested lawyers. The others denied wrongdoing.

Investigators also spoke with a Hanahan policeman who served as the webmaster for Thug Life, but he denied any direct involvement with the blog’s content. David Kornahrens, who since left his police post to become Hanahan’s technology director, told authorities he’d met Ray Garrison only once, to deliver a laptop provided by local attorney David Aylor in exchange for advertising on the site.

“Once this (investigation) started, I wanted nothing to do with the site,” Kornahrens told The Post and Courier. “Now, I wish I had nothing to do with it from the start. This has been an ongoing nightmare.”

Aylor, who knew Kornahrens from his part-time role as Hanahan’s prosecutor, said he saw the website only as a marketing opportunity.

“I’m involved in advertising on many different publications,” Aylor said, “but that doesn’t mean in any way that I endorse the opinions stated.”

After reviewing the findings, the state Attorney General’s Office declined to bring charges, saying the matter was best handled internally by the North Charleston Police Department absent proof beyond a reasonable doubt that officers were responsible for the leak. SLED released the 392-page investigative report in response to a Freedom of Information Act request.

Garrison did not respond to multiple calls and emails seeking comment. The Post and Courier also reached out through the Police Department to several officers mentioned in the report; only one responded. The department declined to comment.

Mayor Keith Summey also refused to discuss the findings “until I get more information,” he said.

Attorney Andy Savage reviewed the probe after fielding concerns from police employees, including Officer David Winslette, who was demoted to a civilian job after sharing a racially charged video with the blog. Savage said SLED spent immense resources investigating what should have remained an internal disciplinary issue.

The result, Savage said, was a criminal probe that scooped up details far broader than the leak of one name — searches that pose serious constitutional concerns.

“The investigation was way overblown,” he said. “They interviewed law enforcement officers without basis to ask questions. If I were the (North Charleston) police chief, I would have put SLED on trespass notice.”

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Filming Cops
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Filming Cops was started in 2010 as a conglomerative blogging service documenting police abuse. The aim isn’t to demonize the natural concept of security provision as such, but to highlight specific cases of State-monopolized police brutality that are otherwise ignored by traditional media outlets.

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