A Richland County volunteer reserve deputy has been charged with pointing a firearm at hikers while he was off duty and camping with his daughter at Saluda Shoals Park in Lexington County.
The reserve deputy, Michael Collum, 42, was charged by a Lexington County deputies who with other law enforcement officers responded to the May 2 incident. It happened in a remote location in the riverfront park off the 5600 block of Bush River Road.
Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott said he has himself looked into the incident and is keeping Collum in his capacity as a reserve deputy. The charge is a felony that carries a maximum of five years in prison.
Lott had no other comment about the matter other than to say Collum is a military veteran and a good officer.
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In the past, Lott has suspended or fired officers charged with misconduct. Lott did not dispute a reporter’s question that his decision to keep Collum as an active reserve deputy is a vote of confidence in Collum.
“I have confidence the judicial system will do the right thing,” Lott said.
A Lexington County sheriff’s report of the incident said deputies confiscated Collum’s gun and gave two versions of events.
The version told by two hikers and deputies is that two young men, 18 and 22 years old, noticed an unattended fire at Collum’s campsite. After calling out and waiting a few minutes, and finding no one around, they moved forward to put the fire out.
At that point, Collum appeared, pulled out a handgun, “racked the slide,” pointed it act the men and told them to leave or he would kill them. The men left and reported the incident to a park ranger, who called Lexington deputies.
Collum’s version was that two men came into the campground and threatened him and his daughter. He admitted drawing his gun but said he kept it at his side. Collum also said he had heard reports that young men were committing crimes at the park.
The Richland County department has 75 reserve deputies who donate about 60 hours of time each quarter to the department, serving in various capacities alongside a regular deputy. All reserve deputies wear uniforms, carry guns and have gone through full training at the S.C. Criminal Justice Academy, Lott said.
“We have a lot of confidence in them,” Lott said.
A Lexington County sheriff’s spokesman said, “The incident report speaks for itself.”
The matter has been referred to the 11th Circuit Solicitor’s office and will be handled in General Sessions Court.