Lexington County sheriff candidate, two officers cleared in shootings

Published: Jan. 27, 2015 at 8:53 PM EST|Updated: Feb. 6, 2015 at 10:13 PM EST
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Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott and Columbia Police Chief "Skip" Holbrook address the media...
Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott and Columbia Police Chief "Skip" Holbrook address the media on August 6, 2014. (Source: WIS)
Kelyan Durham (Source: Alvin S. Glenn Detention Center)
Kelyan Durham (Source: Alvin S. Glenn Detention Center)

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - A candidate for Lexington County sheriff, a South Carolina Law Enforcement Division agent and a Richland County sheriff's deputy have been cleared of any wrongdoing in the August 2014 shootings of a two men during the attempted arrest of a suspect wanted on outstanding warrants.

The three officers, all members of a multi-agency fugitive task force, acted in accordance with state and federal law when they shot Keylan Durham and Quentin Warner at Brook Pines Apartments on August 6, Fifth Circuit Solicitor Dan Johnson wrote in a January 20 letter to the heads of the three agencies involved.

Following his review of two independent investigations, one conducted by the Lexington County Sheriff's Department and one by the Richland County Sheriff's Department, Johnson says he was able to close the matter. "I further find that each officer's use of force was reasonably necessary in light of all circumstances gleaned from the investigation," Johnson wrote in the letter obtained by WIS.

Richland County Sheriff's Department Investigator Justin Britt, who is a current candidate for Lexington County sheriff, Columbia police officer Marcus Brown and SLED Senior Special Agent Keith Thrower "were in fear, and lethal force was necessary to protect their own lives as well as the lives of fellow officers and innocent bystanders in the area," Johnson wrote.

Durham was on the task force's radar that day because of his alleged involvement in a crime spree two days earlier, which included a carjacking at a hotel on Columbiana Drive. Police chased two men in a Chevrolet Camaro onto Interstate 20 before they crashed on Monticello Road. Officers arrested one man, but Durham allegedly got away.

Two days later, members of the task force went to Durham's girlfriend's apartment because they believed he would show up there. Surveillance efforts identified him and another man, Quentin Walker, driving toward the complex in his girlfriend's car.

The task force's plan was to surrounded the vehicle when it parked outside the complex. Durham and Walker, according to Solicitor Johnson's description of the evidence, unexpectedly parked in a lot across the street. Officers immediately maneuvered their vehicles to block Durham and Walker in.

According to Johnson, Britt, another CPD officer and Brown exited their vehicles with their service weapons drawn while yelling for the men to get out of the car. While Brown approached, he saw Durham look into the side mirror and then down to the center console. Brown, according to Johnson, perceived Durham's movements as an attempt to grab a weapon.

Britt stood in the threshold of his vehicle's door and yelled at Durham to exit the car. Durham, instead, revved the vehicle and put it in reverse, According to Johnson. Britt jumped into his vehicle and braced for a collision. Instead, Durham narrowly missed the front of Britt's vehicle, Johnson wrote.

Brown was not so lucky. He was stuck and pinned in between Durham's car and another officer's vehicle. And, that's when the shooting started.

Brown, who lost feeling in his left hand and almost dropped his gun, secured it is his right hand and began firing at Durham as the suspect's vehicle continued in reverse. Johnson noted Brown was in fear for his life.

Durham's vehicle continued in reverse until it struck a tree and spun to the side. Durham, however, did not stop and continued accelerating in reverse toward the officers, Johnson wrote.

As the officers continued ordering Durham to stop the vehicle, Britt made a move to avoid Durham's vehicle and began firing his gun "to stop the immediate threat that Durham posed to him as well as the other officers and civilians in the area," Johnson wrote.

Agent Thrower, who had arrived on the scene during the commotion, also fired several shots at Durham while the vehicle was reversing and spinning.

Brown fired again when he saw Warner reaching down beside his seat. Johnson wrote Brown believed Warner was reaching for a weapon. He stopped firing when Brown raised his hands into the air.

At that point, all firing had stopped and officers apprehended Durham and Warner.

The two were transported to Palmetto Health Richland Hospital, Durham with a gunshot wound to his arm and Warner with three gunshot wounds to his neck. Both were eventually treated and released.

The officer was also treated for non-life threatening injuries.

In all, ballistic testing concluded the officers fired a total of 21 times at the two suspects. Investigators were not able to conclude which officers' bullets hit the two suspects.

Durham is currently facing multiple charges including attempted murder and strong armed robbery. Online records do not indicate Warner faces any charges in connection with the incident.

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