Three Myrtle Beach police officers were cleared of any wrongdoing by the 15th Circuit Solicitor’s Office after a South Carolina Law Enforcement Division closed an investigation into the officer-related shooting death of a 55-year-old man in Myrtle Beach last March.
SLED recently released a summary report containing initial statements given by the three police officers, Pfc. Jeffrey Thomas, Pfc. Brendan Hyde and Pfc. Michael Hearon, according to documents, as well as statements from other officials on scene.
“… based on the information you uncovered there is no evidence of criminal wrongdoing by these officers in this tragic situation,” said Chief Deputy Solicitor Scott Hixson, in a letter dated Sept. 7.
Myrtle Beach officers were called about 3:30 a.m. on March 26 to the intersection of 21st Avenue North and Robert Grissom Parkway about a “suspicious man,” who later was identified as Donald White, according to the SLED summary report.
White reportedly was acting strange at the Myrtle Beach intersection, according to the SLED summary report. Several police arrived on scene, and White was holding what was later determined to be toy gun up to his head, authorities said.
Officers tried to persuade White to put down the gun, which they said appeared real. Hearon tased him in an attempt to disarm him. After he was tased, he pointed the gun toward Myrtle Beach police officers and was shot after Thomas and Hyde opened fire, the report states.
He died a short time later at Grand Strand Regional Medical Center. Officers at the scene said the fake gun White had appeared very real, and that White repeatedly demanded they shoot him, despite negotiation efforts.
Hyde said when he arrived at the scene he saw White sitting on the sidewalk holding a gun to his head. Thomas was involved with negotiations with White. Hyde said he could hear White shout to him: “I want you to kill me, shoot me,” the SLED summary report says.
Hyde told him “no,” according to the report, and asked him to keep talking to Thomas, but Hyde said White repeated “I want you to kill me,” the report says.
White started talking with Thomas again, and Hearon was told by a sergeant to use his taser on White.
Hyde said White was “moving aggressively” toward Hearon and yelling while pointing his gun. Hyde said he opened fire, shooting White an unknown amount of times.
“PFC. Hyde discharged his weapon because Donald White was pointing a gun towards PFC. Hearon and he feared for PFC. Hearon’s life,” the report says.
Thomas also fired at White at the same time as Hyde was shooting, Hyde said.
Hyde moved closer to White with his rifle still aimed. As Hyde approached, White reached for his handgun, and police kicked his gun out of reach. White later was handcuffed and given medical aid before he was taken to the hospital.
Hyde learned the gun was fake after he picked it up and felt its weight, the report states.
“During the incident, PFC Thomas believed the gun Donald White was holding was a real gun because it looked like a Glock,” the report states.
“PFC. Thomas said Donald White was raising the gun at PFC. Hearon so he shot his gun two times at Donald White,” the report said.
Cpl. Richard Arroyo with Myrtle Beach police also gave an account of the incident, according to the report. As negotiations with White went on, his voice pitch increased, and he “appeared determined to get officers to shoot and kill him,” the report states.
“At one point Donald White stepped out in front of all the patrol vehicles with the gun down from his head and began yelling and screaming ‘it’s your job, shoot me,’” the report says.
An officer who arrived on scene after the incident went to speak with White’s girlfriend who lived nearby. She told police that she and White recently moved to the Myrtle Beach area. She said White had been “depressed and suicidal,” according to the SLED summary report.