As a black South Carolina man was being rushed to the hospital after he was shot by a white sheriff’s deputy, he told an investigator in a recorded interview that he should have dropped the gun he had grabbed earlier to protect himself from intruders.
“I saw officers and I should have put the gun down,” Bryant Heyward told a Charleston County Sheriff’s investigator during an interview in the ambulance following the Thursday incident.
“I didn’t. They thought I was the crook and shot,” Heyward, 26, said. The recorded interview was played Friday for local community leaders and news reporters.
Heyward told the investigator he had called 911 because two men were trying to break into the house he shares with his mother and brother in the rural community of Hollywood, S.C. He said he went to his brother’s room to get his brother’s gun as the men tried to get in.
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Deputy Keith Tyner who responded to the 911 call, shouted commands at Heyward before firing and wounding him in the neck, according to an incident report released Friday.
Meanwhile, an attorney for the family, Justin Bamberg of Orangeburg, said Heyward cannot speak and has no feeling from his waist down. Heyward is being treated at the Medical University of South Carolina.
Bamberg said the family has questions about the incident, and it’s not clear if Heyward pointed the gun at the officers or was just holding it.
Another family attorney, Chris Stewart of Atlanta, said Heyward’s statement to the investigator “just shows the type of person he is. He just got shot by the officers and he said it isn’t your fault. But he’s not a trained officer knowing when they should shoot someone and when they should not.”
On the recorded 911 call, Heyward tells an emergency dispatcher, “Someone was trying to break into my house. Please come. … It’s an emergency and they have guns. Please come!”
When deputies arrived at the mobile home down a dirt driveway they saw a gunshot hole in a front window and the back door appeared to be damaged, according to the incident report.
Heyward came out of the back door with a gun and the officer told him to drop it, Sheriff’s Maj. Eric Watson said.
“As we were approaching, the back door swung open,” said the report written by Deputy Richard Powell, who responded to the scene with Tyner. Powell said he could not see into the house from his vantage point.
The deputy wrote that he “heard Deputy Tyner shout verbal commands and that there was a gun” and “next heard gunfire as Deputy Tyner fired to suppress the threat.”
Later Thursday authorities arrested Thomas Zachary Brown, 22 and charged him with first-degree burglary and attempted murder in connection with the home invasion. They have also issued a warrant for a second man, Joshua Achim Simmons. He is wanted for attempted murder and attempted burglary.
The State Law Enforcement Division is investigating the shooting and the sheriff’s office will investigate the home invasion. The two deputies have been suspended with pay.
Sheriff’s officials met Friday with community leaders to discuss the incident – the second shooting in recent months involving law enforcement in Charleston County.
On April 4, a white North Charleston Police officer shot and killed a black man who he said fought with him over the officer’s stun gun.
Officer Michael Slager has been charged with murder in the slaying of Walter Scott. A bystander’s cellphone video showed him firing eight shots at Scott’s back as he ran away.
Both shootings come amid nationwide calls for police reform following several high-profile deaths of black men at the hands of law enforcement. Most recently, the city of Baltimore erupted in riots last month after a black man died of a spinal injury he received while in police custody.
Hollywood is about 15 miles west of Charleston.
Associated Press writer Tom Foreman Jr. in Charlotte, North Carolina, contributed.