BERKELEY COUNTY, SC (WCSC) - The Dorchester County Coroner's Office has ruled the death of a man who died following a police pursuit as a homicide.
Coroner Paul J. Brouthers said he made the ruling on the April 19, 2017 death of 30-year-old Robert Lee Clark, Jr. based on all the evidence discovered by his office.
The death stems from a pursuit by a deputy with the Berkeley County Sheriff's Office that ended on Main Street in Summerville.
The coroner's office says in that pursuit, the pursuing officer engaged the fleeing motorcyclist by applying deadly force with his patrol vehicle, causing the motorcyclist to lose control and crash.
"The Coroner's Standard for determining Homicide as the manner of death includes the action of one person directly causing the death of another," read a statement by the coroner.
The solicitor's office said the coroner's ruling on Thursday will have no effect on the grand jury's decision to not indict VanSant.
Don Sorenson with the 1st Circuit Solicitor's Office said the coroner's report would not have been included in the Grand Jury report to begin with.
Officials with the Berkeley County Sheriff's Office say they are continuing an ongoing internal investigation of the incident.
"Deputy VanSant remains on administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation," BCSO officials said on Thursday.
The sheriff's office says members of the South Carolina Highway Patrol Multi-disciplinary Accident Investigation Team and members of the Highway Patrol met with Sheriff Duane Lewis Thursday morning to review the MAIT's investigative report.
The report has been given to BCSO's Professional Standards Unit who will review it as part of their investigation.
"I am very appreciative of the South Carolina Highway Patrol's thorough and detailed investigation into this incident," Lewis said."At the conclusion of the ongoing internal review, we will make a determination as to compliance with any relevant policies or procedure."
The coroner additionally said in a statement on Thursday:
The Coroner's Standard for determining Homicide as the manner of death includes the action of one person directly causing the death of another. A death that occurs as a result of a felony is also considered Homicide. A violent death may stem from some kind of deliberate or purposeful action, but intent to cause death need not be present or proven for the classification of Homicide.
The responsibility of the Coroner is to determine cause and manner of death, and whether or not to prosecute or apply criminal charges does not lie with this office. Rather, this office is charged with the mission of conducting an independent investigation to determine cause and manner of death only.
The South Carolina Highway Patrol has also released a traffic report of the incident.
The report states Clark was being pursued by VanSant at a high rate of speed. Another motorist then slowed down due to the approaching police pursuit, SCHP officials said.
According to the SCHP report, the deputy struck the motorcycle which then sideswiped the passenger side of the other motorist's vehicle.
The rider of the motorcycle was then ejected and struck a utility pole, Highway Patrol officials said.
BCSO officials said Vansant attempted to stop a motorcycle driven by Clark who they say was driving the vehicle erratically and failed to stop for the marked police cruiser. According to a report by the sheriff's office, the pursuit lasted several minutes and, ultimately, Clark was killed after his motorcycle crashed.