Shooting victim to investigator: 'I should have put the gun down, but I didn't'

Charleston Co. Sheriff Al Cannon listens to comments from Hollywood Mayor Jackie Heyward. (Photo Source: Live 5)
Charleston Co. Sheriff Al Cannon listens to comments from Hollywood Mayor Jackie Heyward. (Photo Source: Live 5)

CHARLESTON COUNTY, SC (WCSC) - The Hollywood man wounded by a Charleston County deputy told an investigator on the way to the hospital the incident was an accident.

Charleston County Sheriff Al Cannon played an audio recording of an interview that happened in the ambulance as the man was being transported to MUSC at a Friday meeting between the department, community leaders and activists and reporters.

In the recording, Bryant Heyward, 26, described the events surrounding an attempted home invasion that drew deputies to the scene. He told the investigator the suspects claimed they were looking for Heyward's brother and tried to pry open a window. Heyward said he got a gun from the bedroom and called the cops.

Cannon said the recording indicates Heyward called his brother, who told him where to find a gun Heyward could use to defend himself. Cannon said Heyward had every right to defend himself from would-be home invaders.

The shooting happened Thursday morning as officers responded to a report that two men on bicycles shot into the home and may have exchanged gunfire with the homeowner who was defending himself.Charleston County Asst. Sheriff Mitch Lucas said the deputies did not arrive in time to see the suspects leave. According to the incident report, when two deputies went to the back of the house on Scott White Road, the back door swung open. One deputy heard another shout out commands and that there was a gun. Then the deputy fired his gun at the homeowner to "suppress the threat," the report states.

The victim suffered a gunshot wound to the neck, a wound Cannon calls "grievous," but is in stable condition at MUSC. 

A key piece of the recording involved Heyward's account of the actual shooting.

"The officer did it but it was an accident," Heyward says in the recording. "I should have put the gun down, but I didn't," he says a short time says in the recording.

According to the report, the deputy who fired the shots tried to help the homeowner as soon as he realized he was injured.

"[Officers] are taught to shoot at center mass," Cannon said of the training of deputies. Cannon said they do not "shoot to kill," but rather to "shoot to stop the threat."

Thomas Brown, 21, was arrested in connection with the home invasion and will face a bond judge Friday afternoon on a charge of attempted murder and first-degree burglary.

Cannon said they are searching for a second suspect he identified as Joshua Simmons.

"We certainly think this is a remarkable young man, and our prayers are with him and his family that he will overcome this serious injury," Cannon said.

Cannon said the South Carolina State Law Enforcement Division is investigating the shooting by the deputy, but that the Charleston County Sheriff's Office is investigating the reported home invasion that got deputies to the home in the first place.

Cannon said the two deputies are on paid administrative leave, which he says is normal procedure during such an investigation.

Hollywood Mayor Jackie Heyward, who is not related to the victim, said the incident pierced the heart of the community.

"When you make the call because your life feels threatened by an intruder and you end up being the victim yourself, that's a very hard pill to swallow," she said.

Cannon responded, saying, "It makes it even more a tragedy for us is someone calls us for help and we ended up being a part of him getting injured seriously."

Charleston County Council Chairman Elliott Summey said he wants to know whether any procedural changes need to be made after this incident. Summey is calling for the council's Public Safety Committee to work with the sheriff's office, the 911 center and EMS to see if any changes are necessary.

"We've been gathering information on body cameras for deputies since the Walter Scott shooting," he said via Twitter. Summey says a hearing on cameras is scheduled for Thursday.

Heyward's family's attorneys, Chris Stewart and Justin Bamberg, said the shooting has left Heyward paralyzed from the waist down.

Stewart and Bamberg also represent the family of Walter Scott, the man fatally shot by a former North Charleston police officer who faces a murder charge.

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