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Charleston deputy who shot, paralyzed home invasion victim won't be charged, AG rules

Bryant Heyward (WCIV)

The South Carolina Attorney General's office says a Charleston County deputy will not be prosecuted after mistakenly shooting the victim of a 2015 home invasion, in what officials have called an "unfortunate" and "tragic accident."

Charleston County Sheriff's Office deputy Keith Tyner shot Bryant Heyward in the neck, and ultimately paralyzed him from the chest down, while responding to a reported armed home invasion attempt and shooting at Heyward's home on May 7, 2015.

Heyward called 911 pleading for help after some men tried to rob him, and fired shots into his home. Heyward returned fire, and the suspects ran off. Four people were later arrested in connection to the case.

When Deputy Tyner arrived minutes after the incident to investigate, Heyward stepped outside to meet him while still holding his gun. Tyner immediately ordered Heyward to show his hands, then fired two shots at him.

Video shows about two seconds passed from the time Tyner ordered Heyward to show his hands until Tyner opened fire.

"Wrong guy, sir. Wrong guy, sir. This is my house," 911 recordings show Heyward saying after the shots.

Heyward’s family ultimately filed a civil lawsuit agains the sheriff's office and Charleston County Consolidated 911 Dispath for $25 million, claiming gross negligence, battery, assault, and violating his civil rights.

Heyward's attorney claims all statements made by CCSO officials after the shooting were false and portrayed Heyward as being at fault for causing the deputy's reaction.

The lawsuit says the CCSO tried to "create the purported perception" Heyward had time to process the deputy's demands, and should have dropped the gun, when Deputy Tyner's body worn microphone proves deputies "never once ordered (Heyward) to drop his weapon or mentioned a weapon at all."

Another claim in the suit alleges Deputy Tyner lied on his report, saying Heyward came out pointing a gun, resulting in the shooting.

"I should have put the gun down but I didn't. And I was shot," a recording shows Heyward telling investigators during the ambulance ride after the shooting. "The officer did it, but it was an accident. ... He thought I was the crook and shot."

More than two and a half years later, the Attorney General 's office has ruled evidence in the case does not suggest Deputy Tyner should face charges.

“We have concluded that Deputy Tyner acted appropriately in response to an apparent deadly threat, and that there is insufficient evidence to merit criminal prosecution in this matter. Therefore, we are closing this matter,” Deputy Attorney General Heather Weiss said in a letter Jan. 19.

Justin Bamberg, the family attorney said he is not surprised by the AG's office's decision, saying he “respects but disagrees with the Attorney General’s decision.”

Bamberg continued to say that he can’t think of any situation where a homeowner is shot when he calls 911 as an “appropriate situation”. He says the civil case is still pending in federal district court. “The Charleston County Sheriff’s Office still has an opportunity to make things right,” said Bamberg.

In addition, the Charleston County Sheriff’s Office also released a statement saying,

“Today, the Charleston County Sheriff' Office became aware of the legal decision made by the South Carolina State Attorney General's Office regarding a shooting incident involving Deputy Sheriff Keith Tyner and Mr. Bryant Heyward. When this shooting first took place in May 2015, we then and still do now regret that this unfortunate incident happened. Law enforcement officers across this country are faced with making difficult and split-second decisions to not only protect themselves, but to also protect the community. This shooting was one of those decisions. We believe that the SC Attorney General's Office decision was appropriate given the facts of this case.
As a result of this tragic event, the individuals who started the chain of events were apprehended and arrested. Our hearts and prayers will continue and will always be with Mr. Bryant Heyward and his family.”
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