Rape, sexual harassment and threats: SC police officer accuses ex-chief in new lawsuit

A Marion city police officer says her former chief subjected her to years of sexual harassment and multiple rapes, according to a federal lawsuit.

The officer says ex-Chief Dewayne Tennie forced himself on her multiple times, threatened her and repeatedly begged her to end other relationships. The lawsuit highlights the relationship from 2014-2018.

Tennie left the City of Marion Police Department in the spring after the city placed him on leave, according to multiple media reports. The Sun News’ Grand Strand Media Alliance partner WPDE reported in April that Tennie stated in papers with the SC Criminal Justice Academy that his resignation from the department “does not involve misconduct.”

The suit names the city and Tennie as defendants. City Attorney James Brogdon declined to comment on the pending litigation.

The Sun News does not typically name women who claim to be victims of sexual assault.

The lawsuit

The officer contends she and Tennie first had a sexual relationship in 2014, according to court papers. She had recently broken up with her boyfriend and Tennie asked her to come to his home. There, the two had sex, court documents state.

The relationship continued for a couple of months when she started to have feelings for Tennie. Tennie said it was strictly a sexual relationship, the filing states, and the encounters ended.

Dewayne Tennie Courtesy of WPDE

In April 2015, Tennie questioned the officer about her new boyfriend and made a disparaging remark about the man. Tennie made comments about his relationship with the officer and she responded that he said it was strictly sexual, according to the suit. Tennie said it meant more to him.

The chief frequently called the woman and asked her to end the relationship with the new boyfriend. The officer and the man broke up in May, and the chief started to ignore the officer, the lawsuit contends.

A year later, the officer started to date someone new, and Tennie again begged her to end the relationship, court records state.

One day, the officer was leaving for court when Tennie called her into his office. She told him she needed to be at court and he responded “I am the chief,” according to the suit.

The two had sex, and she was late for court. When she arrived, she states, people had looks that led her to believe they knew why she was tardy, the lawsuit reads.

Later, Tennie began dating another woman but would not leave the officer alone, the filing states.

Allegations of sexual assault

On one occasion, the officer was texting with a male friend when Tennie read the message and didn’t like it, according to the suit. He twisted her arm and made a fist as if he was going to hit the woman, the filing reads. Tennie threatened to call the sheriff and stated, “we will both lose our jobs.”

Tennie began to call the woman and she contemplated quitting her job, according to the suit. The chief begged her not to quit, professed his love and said it would not happen again.

The two then had a sexual relationship over the next few months, according to court records.

In September 2017, Tennie started to date another woman but told the officer he didn’t want to let her go, the suit contends.

The chief broke up with the other woman and asked the female officer to come to his house. There, the suit alleges, the chief forced himself on the woman and raped her.

The officer “began to cry and shout ‘Take me home! You raped me,’” the filing reads.

Tennie told her he couldn’t have raped her because her “body eventually responded to his,” according to the suit.

In November 2017, Tennie took the woman to a hotel in Bennettsville where they had relations with another woman. When the officer said she felt low, Tennie made disparaging remarks.

The officer threatened to speak to the mayor if Tennie didn’t leave her alone, the filing reads. In late 2017, Tennie pursued the woman again, and the two had sex.

In February 2018, Tennie again raped the female officer, according to the filing.

“When [the officer] did not want to have relations with Chief Tennie he would make her job ‘a living hell,’” according to the suit.

When the officer told the chief she did not want a relationship, he threatened her, “stating that is how people get hurt,” according to the paperwork.

The lawsuit — which asks for an unspecified amount of damages — alleges numerous claims including sexual harassment, retaliation and assault.

Alex Lang is the True Crime reporter for The Sun News covering the legal system and how crime impacts local residents. He says letting residents know if they are safe is a vital role of a newspaper. Alex has covered crime in Detroit, Iowa, New York City, West Virginia and now Horry County.