A web of yellow crime scene tape was spun around a Deerfield Plantation home where police say a “suicidal” man was killed by a law enforcement officer early Friday.
Myrtle Beach police will investigate the death, because the State Law Enforcement Division helped respond to the call. SLED typically investigates officer-involved shootings by other agencies.
The identity of the man, who later died in the hospital, had not been released by local authorities by Friday afternoon.
“All of the sudden, I heard a lot of guys running in between the units with high-powered flashlights,” said Sandra Bachmann, who lives down the street in the neighborhood where the shooting happened.
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Bachmann said she awoke around 4 a.m. to a loud crashing sound. She said she thought someone had hit a parked car and walked outside to investigate, fearing her car had been struck.
“When I came out I was surprised to see a camouflage unit with rifles,” Bachmann said.
Horry County police first responded to a call around midnight for a suicidal subject at 1451 Turkey Ridge Road. Agents with SLED also responded to the call, according to Capt. Joey Crosby of Myrtle Beach police.
Prior to arrival, police were told the suspect was acting “erratically” and witnessed the same behavior when they were on scene; officers said the man fired his weapon in the air, Crosby said.
At that point, Crosby said officers “established a perimeter, and for the safety of the community, evacuated residents in the immediate area.” Police tape at the scene surrounded the building where the man lived and the two buildings on either side. Other nearby neighbors said they were not asked to leave their homes.
Horry County SWAT and negotiators were called to the scene, but the man’s aggressive behavior continued, police said. At one point he approached officers and pointed his weapon at them, Crosby said.
“An officer fired his weapon at the male subject striking the male,” Crosby said in a release. “SWAT medics and EMS provided immediate medical attention, and the male was transported to the hospital where he was later pronounced deceased.”
Resident Joyce Bays said she looked out her kitchen window and saw a heavy police presence.
“I heard one shot then … quite a lot of time lapsed before there was another shot. I just knew to stay inside, because I didn’t know what was going on,” she said.
Because SLED officers were on scene during the shooting, Myrtle Beach police will take the reigns in the investigation. Crosby declined to clarify whether an officer from SLED or Horry County police shot the man.
This is the fifth time in 10 years that SLED has been entangled in an officer-involved shooting, said the agency’s spokesperson, Special Agent Thom Berry. All four past shootings also were investigated by uninvolved, local authorities.
“This is something we do as a standard,” Berry said.
A spokesperson for Horry County police referred questions about the incident to Myrtle Beach police.
But the investigation is an inversion of the typical scenario when a civilian is shot by police, as SLED, the primary state law enforcement agency, usually investigates shootings by local officers.
“The [local] agency absolutely knows that if they have a shooting, SLED is going to come in and do an investigation, so it does raise some questions as to whether the agency investigating a SLED shooting really can be as objective and detached as we want them to be,” said Seth Stoughton, an assistant professor of law at the University of South Carolina.
One of SLED’s principal duties also is to assist local agencies. Law enforcement agencies working together is a positive thing, Stoughton said.
But, he added, “That closeness can affect both the accuracy and the perceived legitimacy of the investigation.”