There were many questions the night a South Carolina man was shot multiple times, in his own home, by a Greenville County sheriff’s deputy.
That same night, a sheriff’s office spokesman gave reporters a simple account of what took place: The deputy fired his weapon after the homeowner flung open the door and aimed a gun at him. But more than a month later — with body-camera video released — the questions remain unanswered, and the sheriff’s office account is under intense scrutiny.
The spokesman, Lt. Ryan Flood, told reporters on June 13 that police were responding to a panic alarm on a cellphone that someone in the house triggered shortly before midnight. A lone deputy went to the house and rang the doorbell, where the armed homeowner “immediately jerked open the door and presented a handgun and pointed it directly at the deputy,” Flood said.
In response, Flood said, the officer opened fire and shot the man, who was reported alive and recovering in a hospital. The deputy was placed on administrative leave with pay — the protocol for an officer involved in a shooting. The sheriff’s office echoed that account on its Facebook page the next day, accusing the homeowner of opening the door and aiming his weapon at the deputy.
Flood said more information on the case, including video from the incident, would be provided in the form of a community briefing video in 45 days.
As promised, the Greenville County Sheriff’s Office released Monday what it called “relevant video footage and photographs” in the shooting.
But the body-cam video from that night contradicts the initial police account. The video, which was edited by the sheriff’s office and lacks some audio, includes a narration from Capt. Tim Brown from the office of professional standards.
Brown explained that the deputy, who has not been named by the sheriff’s office, was dispatched to the home when the alarm company was unable to contact the cellphone’s owner. The deputy initially rang the doorbell and stepped off the porch to begin a perimeter check when he noticed movement inside the house, Brown said. That’s when the body-camera footage begins in the sheriff’s office’s version of the video.
Brown narrated the officer’s account, that when he went back to the door, he saw through a sidelight window the homeowner holding a gun.
“According to the deputy, after noticing the man inside, he illuminates him with his flashlight, and as he did so, the man who was initially walking away from the front door turned and pointed his gun at him,” Brown said.
That’s when the deputy opened fire. But, in the video that the Greenville County Sheriff’s Office released on Monday, the door did not open before the officer opened fire. The video confirms the homeowner had a gun, but it does not capture the homeowner aiming a weapon at the deputy. The last image of the homeowner, before the shooting, appears to be of him walking away from the front door.
The deputy is shown in the video shooting multiple times through the left sidelight window. The homeowner, identified by his attorney as 62-year-old Dick Tench, was struck multiple times.
The video does not show Tench “open the door and point a gun directly at the deputy,” as officials originally claimed.
“That’s the most disturbing aspect, aside from the fact he was shot four times, was that the account of what happened was absolutely untrue,” Tench’s attorney, Beattie Ashmore, said in an interview Tuesday. “The fact they allege he opened his own door and pointed a gun at a Greenville sheriff’s deputy is ludicrous.”
The Facebook post containing the inaccurate initial account was left up for “weeks” after the incident, Ashmore said. It has since been removed.
Tench and his attorney also allege that the deputy did not identify himself as law enforcement until after he fired the shots. The video does not provide any sound until after the shooting.
The homeowner repeatedly yells that he is wounded as the deputy orders him to throw the gun outside, through the now-open door, and show his hands.
“Who are you . . . what are you here for?” Tench is heard yelling as he writhes in pain.
“Because we got an alarm call!” the deputy yells back.
“Oh my God, call the cops, please!” Tench replies.
“I am the cops!” the deputy says.
The scene inside the house is chaotic. Tench is seen keeled over when the deputy enters, asking, “Where’s the gun?”
When Tench questions the officer’s motives for shooting, the deputy responds, “You pointed a gun at me, man!”
“I saw the lights and I heard the doorbell and I got my gun, I’m a concealed-weapons guy!” Tench said. " . . . You came to my house 12 o’clock at night, I’m sleeping . . . God damn I’ve got to protect my house! Oh my God. Get the ambulance right now. I’m gonna die . . . I can’t believe you did this to mego
Tench appears confused when the deputy mentions that he was called because an alarm went off. The house didn’t have an alarm system, Tench said. But in Monday’s video, Brown explained the panic alarm was triggered by a “medical assist app” from a cellphone belonging to someone inside the home.
Ashmore did not dispute the sheriff’s office’s claim that an alarm went off and said it may have been triggered by Tench’s mother-in-law, who lives in the house along with his wife. Both sides agree there was no immediate emergency.
Asked about the disparities between the initial account and Monday’s video, Greenville County Sheriff’s Office Lt. Jimmy Bolt told The Washington Post that “we’re working on that” and declined to comment further. Bolt also said the sheriff’s office had no plans to release unedited body-camera footage, adding that it was not legally required to do so.
Ashmore said: “Once that footage came out and established we knew what the truth is, we felt compelled to publicly address that disparity.”
Tench’s doctors told him that he had been struck four times, Ashmore said, with two of the bullets grazing his forearm and back. In the video, Tench said he was struck directly in the groin and chest. Ashmore said his client uses a walker while recovering.
“He’s a big, strong, proud man — just shaken to the core,” Ashmore said. “He still can’t bring himself to view the body-cam video, nor can his wife. But they’ll get through this.”
Sheriff’s office officials say an investigation will determine whether the deputy’s actions were legal. A separate investigation will assess whether the deputy followed sheriff’s office policy.