Coroner releases causes of death of man after being tasered in Lexington County

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Published: Sep. 29, 2023 at 1:53 PM EDT
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LEXINGTON COUNTY, S.C. (WIS) - The Lexington County Coroner’s Office has identified the cause of death for a Lexington County man who was in the Lexington County Sheriff’s Department custody.

Coroner Margaret Fisher said Bernice Junior Smith III died due to multi-drug toxicity. Fisher said the manner of death will be ruled as accidental.

State law allows a coroner to label a death as natural, accidental, homicide, suicide, or undetermined.

An LCSD release states on Aug. 9, a deputy approached Smith at a Walmart in Red Bank and recognized he had an outstanding warrant for shoplifting, according to Lexington County Sheriff Jay Koon. Smith ran away from the deputy.

“Deputies ran after him and eventually used a Taser to subdue him after he was located and was noncompliant with verbal commands,” Koon said in the release.

Fisher’s release did not cite the taser and she declined to provide any information on what role, if any, it may have played.

According to Lexington County Sheriff’s Department (LCSD), deputies removed the handcuffs from Smith when he began to show signs of distress and rendered aid until paramedics arrived to take him to the hospital.

Officials said a forensic autopsy was performed on Friday, Aug. 11, at MUSC in Charleston. Smith’s cause of death was determined by the pathologist at MUSC and the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division has continued the investigation on the case.

WIS obtained LCSD incident reports showing Smith may have had a history with and around drugs, but Lexington County court records don’t show any drug convictions.

The incident reports also show Smith may have struggled with homelessness, living near the Walmart.

The incident reports do not include any incidents involving violence or weapons.

A report from July 2023 alleges Smith stole a tent by using a cheaper tent’s tag at check-out. It led to the arrest warrant that deputies pursued before his death.

Neither SLED nor LCSD have named the deputies involved. LCSD did place three deputies on paid administrative leave.

SLED did not return a request for comment on this story.

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