Nobody is happy when police use force to kill somebody.
Last week, a beloved preacher was shot and killed by sheriff’s deputies at a store in rural Lancaster County just north of Lancaster. Darrell Morgan, pastor of New Harvest Free Will Baptist Church in Tradesville, has been talked about since by those who knew him as a good and decent man – and there is no reason to doubt that was his life.
His life ended because of a gun. His life ended not with him as a pastor, but as a criminal.
And the officers who shot him have to live with that for the rest of their lives – even if, as it appears by all accounts so far, the shooting is justified.
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Police received a frantic call from the clerk at the Carolina Corner store, saying that the situation was unfolding. Morgan, preacher or not, chose to go into the store and start what police have described as a “domestic hostage situation.”
Translation: Morgan was holding estranged wife hostage and was threatening her.
At that point he was not a pastor in a pulpit. He was a man with gun. Period.
“That is the information that has been given to us – the subject was armed,” said Thom Berry, spokesman for the State Law Enforcement Division, which is investigating the shooting. He declined to comment further.
Deputies arrived in minutes.
“Mr. Morgan presented a clear and immediate threat to the civilians in the business with him and to the officers on the scene,” Lancaster County Sheriff Barry Faile said after the shooting.
Two others adults and a child were in that store. Sheriff Faile has said his officers acted properly to protect the people in that store – and themselves.
Faile also extended his prayers and condolences to Morgan’s family. All are saddened that a preacher died.
But the man had a gun. That’s why police were there in the first place.
The people there apparently were in danger, as were the deputies once Morgan pointed the gun at them.
Chester County Sheriff Alex Underwood, who is not connected with the case, said Monday that an officer’s sworn duty is to protect the public while protecting himself and his fellow officers at the same time.
Pat Kiefer is a retired lieutenant from the York County Sheriff’s Office who shot and killed an armed suspect in 2002. The man pointed a gun at Kiefer, and Kiefer had no choice but to kill the man to protect himself and other officers.
Just like what police say happened Thursday in Lancaster.
Kiefer, now an investigator for the 16th Circuit Public Defender’s Office, also works with the S.C. Law Enforcement Assistance Program, which helps officers deal with the aftermath of having to use deadly force. Kiefer has not yet been called to Lancaster to help, but he expects to be.
“You go through hell,” Kiefer said of an officer’s decision to use deadly force.
The incident report and 911 call from Thursday’s shooting are not ready for release, said Doug Barfield, spokesman for the sheriff’s office. The officers names have not yet been released. The SLED investigation is not over, and could take days or weeks, said Berry the spokesperson.
The Carolina Corner store has been closed since. It will remain closed until Wednesday, according to a sign hanging on the door Monday.
In another sign on the door and on social media, the Porter family that owns and runs the store thanked people for their prayers. James Porter on Monday declined to comment about what happened at his store.
What happened was Darrell Morgan was shot and killed by police after committing several crimes.
Domestic violence is against the law.
Holding a gun on someone is against the law.
Holding one or more people hostage is against the law.
Kidnapping is against the law.
According to what we know so far, Morgan chose to do that.
He created the problem.
Just the week before, a Rock Hill man allegedly held his wife hostage for hours until she could escape. He barricaded himself in his house and police waited him out until he surrendered.
That man has been charged with several crimes, including criminal domestic violence of a high and aggravated nature, kidnapping and possession of a weapon during a violent crime.
If the incident had ended differently in Lancaster, and Morgan’s apparent actions had not escalated and he had been taken into custody, there seems no doubt he would have faced multiple charges.
But the gun changed the ending. The threats with the gun meant Morgan’s lifelong service to other people was not the issue at the store Thursday. That he had helped so many people for decades as a pastor and a kind soul was not why the police were there.
The cops were there because of a hostage situation and a gun, held by Morgan.
The gun brought, as it almost always does, death.
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