SLED, RCSD at odds over how deputy-involved shooting should be investigated

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Published: Mar. 28, 2022 at 7:59 PM EDT|Updated: Mar. 28, 2022 at 8:52 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Two South Carolina law enforcement agencies are at odds over how last week’s fatal shooting of Irvin D. Moorer Charley by a Richland County Sheriff’s Department deputy should be investigated.

RCSD is conducting the investigation into the matter.

Charley’s family and their attorneys have said the State Law Enforcement Division or another outside agency should handle it.

RELATED STORY | Family attorney of man shot by RCSD deputy calls for independent investigation, says excessive force was used

“Transparency is all we want, transparency is what we need,” Attorney Brendan Green, who represents Charley’s family, said. “We have called and we will call again for the Richland County Sheriff’s Department to recuse themselves from this investigation to allow SLED or another investigatory body to investigate this shooting.”

SLED Chief Mark Keel said SLED, along with other law enforcement agencies in the state, believe officer-involved shootings should be looked at by independent agencies.

He sent a statement on the matter, which reads: “SLED was created as an assisting agency to provide manpower and technical resources to local law enforcement in a combined effort to best serve local communities and the state as a whole.

SLED has a Community Relations Unit that is comprised of regional community relations agents who directly interact with members of the public, churches, civic organizations, and partner law enforcement agencies.

SLED remains committed to conducting thorough, independent, professional officer involved shooting investigations for law enforcement agencies across South Carolina.

SLED, along with the South Carolina Sheriff’s Association, South Carolina Police Chief’s Association, South Carolina Law Enforcement Officers Association, and the South Carolina chapter of the Fraternal Order of Police have advocated for independent investigations of officer involved shootings and in-custody deaths as noted in the joint document ‘Steps to Enhance the Law Enforcement Profession, Build Trust and Confidence in South Carolina’s Law Enforcement, and Improve Community Relations.’

In accordance with SLED policy, SLED has and will continue to request capable independent law enforcement agencies to investigate officer involved shootings that involve SLED agents and utilizes out of state forensics laboratories to process evidence.

SLED understands that officer involved shooting events have the potential to generate immense public, media, and prosecutorial scrutiny. In addition, these events can have profound social, civil, administrative, and criminal consequences.

This is not about capability. It is about conducting independent investigations with the utmost integrity and impartiality.”

When asked to respond to Keel’s remarks, RCSD referred WIS to a previous statement, which says that the department has the capabilities and checks and balances in place to conduct investigations such as this.

It reads: “RCSD has gathered evidence in officer involved shootings since 2014. Larger agencies throughout the United States that have experienced criminal investigators that have the ability to investigate complex cases, full service forensic capabilities to include DNA and ballistics, and an accredited Crime Scene Team, all investigate their officer involved shootings. RCSD is the largest law enforcement agency in the State and has all of these capabilities.

RCSD does not make a determination if an OIS is justified. This decision is made by the Solicitor.

Additionally, RCSD has layers of checks and balances as we gather evidence. The Coroner does their separate investigation as to the cause of death; the Solicitor reviews all the evidence and procedures used by RCSD. The RCSD Citizens Advisory Council, which includes many community leaders and organization representatives review and have full access to the gathering of evidence and the FBI reviews the case.

Our ability to handle a complex OIS is evidenced by RCSD handling the largest mass shooting of police officers in South Carolina in 2018. Seven police officers were shot in Florence, where two were killed. RCSD was the lead agency in the case, which is a death penalty case.

The citizens of Richland County has the trust and faith of RCSD in doing an effective and complete gathering of evidence in office involved shootings.”

At a press conference the day after the shooting, Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott defended the actions of the deputy, but said he felt for Charley and his mental health struggles.

“Due to his mental health condition I don’t know what was in his mind or what was in his heart,” he said. “But I also know that this deputy is not expected to die. And he had to protect himself and that’s what he did.”

After a Columbia police officer fatally shot Joshua Ruffin in 2020, the SLED investigation into that case took nearly two months.

RCSD says that it should be completing the investigation into this deputy-involved shooting, and turning it over to the 5th Circuit Solicitor’s Office, within the next two weeks.

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