Sheriff, victim call deputy-involved shooting in Hollywood an accident
NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) -- Members of the Charleston County Sheriff's Office said Friday the shooting of an armed man at his home was an unfortunate and tragic accident.
Sheriff Al Cannon and Assistant Sheriff Mitch Lucas were joined by members of the chaplaincy, the black community, and leaders from Hollywood to discuss the incident and answer questions about the shooting that left 26-year-old Bryant Heyward critically wounded and paralyzed, according to his attorney.
The shooting stemmed from a home invasion call made by the wounded man. Cannon said Friday Deputy Keith Tyner arrived at the scene within three minutes of the call. Powell arrived about a minute later.
Cannon says Tyner made his way around the back of the home and saw the back door had been damaged. The incident report notes that a window had been shot out as well.
The door swung open and Heyward walked out holding a gun, Cannon said. Tyner told Heyward to drop the gun and then fired two shots when he didn't. One of the rounds hit Heyward's neck, Cannon said.
The second deputy, identified as Richard Powell, never had a clear look at Heyward, according to both Cannon and the report.
Cannon also revealed that an investigator rode with Heyward to Medical University Hospital and interviewed him along the way. During that talk, Heyward said the shooting was an accident.
"I should have put the gun down but I didn't. And I was shot," Heyward told the investigator during the ambulance ride. "The officer did it but it was an accident."
Heyward said during the incident with the home invasion suspects, they fired two shots at him and he fired two shots back. He wasn't certain if he hit either man.
As the recording ended, Cannon summed up what the room full of people heard: "That is a remarkable recording."
On Thursday, deputies arrested one of the suspects, 22-year-old Thomas Zachary Brown. Brown's bond was set at $1 million on Friday.
Also on Friday, they identified the second man as 19-year-old Joshua Achim Simmons. Simmons has open warrants for attempted murder and attempted burglary, and is considered armed and dangerous.
Cannon struggled for words at times after the recording played. Lucas said the officers, despite arriving within minutes of the initial call, did not get there in time to see the suspects leaving the area.
Heyward's grandmother, who also called 911, told dispatchers she saw two boys on bicycles go through her yard, something she said she did not allow.
Elder James Johnson asked Cannon if he thought there was a rush to judgment for Tyner to fire his weapon. Cannon said he didn't know, that agents from the State Law Enforcement Division would answer that question in their investigation, but he said it sounded like the shots happened right after Heyward was told to drop his weapon.
Lucas said what makes this a tragic shooting was that Heyward had a right to be there in his home and carrying a weapon.
"He was doing what he certainly had a right to do and protecting himself from those individuals trying to get in his home," Cannon said.
SLED said earlier in the day that there were no dash cam or body cam recordings of the incident. Currently, the sheriff's office does not have any body cameras in use. But officials said Friday there is audio from the lapel mics of both deputies that SLED has taken.
Johnson asked how much time lapsed between Tyner telling Heyward to drop the gun and firing his weapon, another question Cannon said he did not have a definite answer for.
"I don't have a timeline, but that is one thing SLED will re-construct," he said.
Hollywood Mayor Jacquelyn Heyward told Cannon that she shooting "pierced the heard of the community." She said after speaking with the family, they are not sure of his fate but are hopeful for a recovery.
But the incident makes it clear to her and others in Hollywood that deputies need to be wearing body cams. It's a call heard often across the country as police agencies are scrutinized for officer-involved shootings that often involve black men. The call for body cameras on officers was echoed less than two hours later near the home where Heyward was shot. Attorneys for the family asked for more questions to be answered by Cannon.
"When you make the call and you end up being the victim, it's a very hard pill to swallow," she said, adding that the family is confused by what has happened because it was their son who called for help and who was injured.
"That makes this even more a tragedy for us. Someone called us for help and we end up being part of what got him hurt," Cannon said.
He said the scene was chaotic as deputies arrived, but the result was tragic. Cannon also mentioned Deputy Joe Matuskovic, the deputy who was killed in the line of duty in West Ashley last September.
"We are sensitive to pain and suffering that folks go through," he said.