DOJ clears two S.C. cops in 2011 deadly shooting - wistv.com - Columbia, South Carolina |

DOJ clears two S.C. cops in 2011 deadly shooting

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A still frame taken from video of the incident. (Source: SLED) A still frame taken from video of the incident. (Source: SLED)
DENMARK, SC (WIS) -

The U.S. Justice Department has finished its review of an officer-involved shooting from August 2011 that killed an Orangeburg County man. The shooting happened following a police chase that spanned two counties.

Just after the shooting in 2011, WIS filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the State Law Enforcement Division, seeking police video and records related to SLED's investigation of the shooting. SLED denied our original request, claiming the case was "still open" and under investigation. No such exemption exists under the state's FOIA law unless law enforcement can make a case that releasing the information would harm its investigation. SLED's public information office never made such a case.

It took SLED nearly three years to release the file to WIS only after Orangeburg County Solicitor David Pascoe told SLED to do so. Pascoe told us that by phone last week. Pascoe was reviewing the case in regards to the Bamberg County deputy who initiated the chase and fired shots at the suspect's vehicle.

AUGUST 4, 2011

A Bamberg County deputy and a Denmark Police Officer got into a chase with Warren Robinson after video from the SLED file shows Robinson taking off from a traffic stop. Bamberg County deputy Eddie Williams pulled up behind Robinson's Chevy truck after Williams was set up by a confidential informant who worked for Williams, according to the SLED file. Williams told SLED agents during an interview the day after the shooting that he got a call on his cell phone from his informant in Denmark, saying the woman needed $10.

Williams testified that he met the woman and paid her $10 for information that Robinson had crack cocaine and marijuana inside his truck. The SLED file shows agents never found any drugs inside Robinson's truck when they executed a search warrant on August 12, 2011. Agents got a statement from the informant that she had the drugs in hand when she bailed out of the truck during the police chase. The informant said Robinson handed her the crack rock during the chase.

Sometime later that day, Williams said he got a call from the informant, telling him where Robinson was parked. Williams' body camera shows Williams pulling up behind Robinson somewhere near Denmark. The video shows Robinson sitting inside his truck with the informant and the woman hands over a can of beer to the deputy.

"Is there any reason you didn't stop back there when I came up behind you," Williams asked Robinson. "Nah, I didn't see you," Robinson responded. Williams asked for the beer can, then asked Robinson for his license. At that point, the video shows Robinson put his truck into gear and take off. Williams got back into his police car and set out after Robinson.

Sometime during the stop, Denmark officer Horace Brunson signed on to the chase. The chase went outside of the town limits and headed down Highway 70 toward Orangeburg County. The video shows the chase lasted six minutes and eight seconds. It ended on Good Hope Road when Williams and Brunson fired shots at Robinson's truck. Brunson fired two shots that killed Robinson.

Brunson told SLED agents that he thought Robinson was trying to kill him on Good Hope Road when Robinson rammed his truck into Brunson's police car, then the officer said Robinson drove toward him as he tried to get away. Brunson's dash camera recorder caught him telling Denmark Police Chief Leroy Grimes the same story at the scene of the shooting, "You see where I am," Brunson asked Grimes, "I took one shot at the damn tire because that son of a [expletive] was trying to hit me and I leveled off and started shooting."

DOJ REVIEWS THE CASE

When SLED finished piecing together the evidence from the shooting, agents sent their file to Orangeburg County Solicitor David Pascoe in September 2011. Pascoe told WIS Orangeburg County Sheriff's Commander Rhonda Bemberg asked him to review the case and determine whether any state charges should be filed against Williams in connection to the shooting.

It took Pascoe five months to find "no criminal wrongdoing on the part of Deputy Eddie Williams, Jr." Pascoe told WIS that he was not asked to review Bamberg Officer Horace Brunson's role in the shooting. Records from the SLED file show the U.S. Department of Justice took the case for review shortly after the August 2011 shooting.

The SLED file shows the DOJ was "set to review" the case on Oct. 28, 2011. The DOJ's Civil Rights Division finished reviewing the case on March 1, 2012 and closed its review. Pascoe said the chase Robinson initiated that day and what he did seconds before the shooting gave officers the right to use deadly force.

State investigators continue to wait on a "death memo" from DOJ to officially close the investigation into Brunson, according to SLED's records. We called Brunson on May 28, 2014 to ask him for an interview for this report. Brunson declined our request and told us he had no idea the case was closed and he hadn't heard anything from SLED in more than a year.

Brunson told WIS that he'd retired from law enforcement. The 2011 shooting was the second time Brunson had shot and killed a suspect. He was cleared in a 2006 shooting from his time as an Allendale police officer. In that shooting, Brunson shot and killed a man who tried to fight Brunson during a traffic stop. Investigators found Brunson was justified in using deadly force in that shooting, as well.

ROBINSON FAMILY NOT SATISFIED

When we pulled up to Warren Robinson's family's Norway, S.C. home on May 28, we delivered news that they have yet to hear from the Orangeburg County Solicitor's Office or SLED agents. They had no idea the officers involved in the shooting had been cleared by state and federal investigators.

The family had never seen the videos included in the SLED file. We showed them the video, which shows the moment Robinson was shot and killed as he tried to speed away from two officers. The family said the video doesn't show where Robinson tried to run down Officer Horace Brunson.

We read Robinson's niece, Latohya Robinson, the officer's statement from the SLED file, "I assumed at that point in time he was trying to kill me," Brunson's statement read.

"Did what you saw in that video show that that truck was near enough to Brunson to cause him harm," reporter Jody Barr asked Robinson, "No, it wasn't. It wasn't," Robinson replied.

"He was walking toward the truck," Robinson told WIS.

Latohya Robinson admitted that her uncle wasn't innocent, "He shouldn't have pulled away and I'm sure if he knew that was going to happen, he wouldn't have run."

The Robinson family filed a lawsuit against Horace Brunson after the shooting. That lawsuit is still pending inside the Orangeburg County courthouse. The video, Latohya Robinson told WIS, is further evidence Brunson had no justification in killing her uncle. "If I saw the video and I'm like, okay, yeah, my uncle was shooting at him or he was standing in front of the vehicle and my uncle tried to run him over…okay, I understand that. But, I don't understand that. From seeing that video, I don't understand that at all."

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