Charleston deputy cleared in shooting of man mistaken for home invasion suspect

Bryant Heyward, flanked by family and attorney Justin Bamburg, spoke to reporters in Dec. 2015. (Source: Live 5)
Bryant Heyward, flanked by family and attorney Justin Bamburg, spoke to reporters in Dec. 2015. (Source: Live 5)

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - The state attorney general's office says no charges will be filed against the Charleston County deputy who shot a home invasion victim he mistook for a burglar in 2015.

"...We have concluded that Deputy Tyner acted appropriately in response to an apparent deadly threat and that there is insufficient evidence to merit criminal prosecution in this matter," Senior Assistant Deputy Attorney General Heather Weiss wrote in a letter to the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division on Friday. Weiss said based on those findings, the attorney general's office will close their investigation.

Heyward's attorney, Justin Bamberg, said he was not surprised by the decision.

"I disagree that officer acted appropriately," Bamberg said. "I can't think of any situation where it's appropriate to shoot a homeowner who is on the phone with 911."

Late Tuesday, the Charleston County Sheriff's Office issued a statement on the attorney general's office's decision:

"Today, the Charleston County Sheriff' Office became aware of the legal decision made by the South Carolina State Attorney General's Office regarding a shooting incident involving Deputy Sheriff Keith Tyner and Mr. Bryant Heyward. When this shooting first took place in May 2015, we then and still do now regret that this unfortunate incident happened. Law enforcement officers across this country are faced with making difficult and split-second decisions to not only protect themselves but to also protect the community. This shooting was one of those decisions. We believe that the SC Attorney General's Office decision was appropriate given the facts of this case.

As a result of this tragic event, the individuals who started the chain of events were apprehended and arrested. Our hearts and prayers will continue and will always be with Mr. Bryant Heyward and his family."

Heyward mistaken for home invasion suspect, shot in neck

Heyward, who was 26 at the time of the incident, had called 911 to report the attempted home invasion, deputies said.

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.

Heyward was struck in the neck and left paralyzed from the chest down.

The day after the shooting, Charleston County Sheriff Al Cannon played a portion of an audio recording made while Heyward was being transported to the hospital.

"The officer did it but it was an accident. He didn't know who I was, he saw the gun," Heyward said in the recording, adding a short time later in the recording, "I should have put the gun down, but I didn't, and he thought that I was the crook and he shot."

Heyward and his family filed a $25 million lawsuit against the Charleston County Sheriff's Office and several of its employees.

The suit alleged gross negligence against the dispatcher and the supervisor of the Charleston County Consolidated Dispatch Center, the sheriff's office, Chief Deputy Mitch Lucas and Sheriff Al Cannon; negligent hiring, supervision and retention against the sheriff's office and the dispatch center; battery against the two deputies who responded to the scene, assault against the deputy who fired at Heyward, violation of Heyward's civil rights against the deputies and civil conspiracy against the sheriff's office and several of its employees.

Heyward claimed the dispatch center was understaffed and not properly trained to handle his call for help, that the sheriff's office failed to follow proper protocol and reasonable care, that deputies violated his civil rights and that the sheriff's office then released false statements about the events leading up to the shooting.

"Within one second of first sight, Tyner shoots [Heyward] while simultaneously yelling, 'show me your hands,'" the suit alleged. Tyner and the second officer, Deputy Richard Powell, dragged Heyward out of the laundry room, causing a "severe laceration" which would later require stitches "as well as worsened the severity of the initial spinal cord injury," the suit stated.

Heyward said at the time the suit was filed that he has since developed diabetes, sacral ulcers and had incurred more than $1 million in medical bills at the time the suit was filed. His lifetime medical bills were expected to exceed $25 million. Heyward said he would require special medical care for the rest of his life.

"This closes a painful chapter for Bryant, but the sheriff's office still has an opportunity to do right by Bryant," Bamberg said.

He said the civil lawsuit is still pending and the Heyward family is prepared to go to trial if need be.

Copyright 2018 WCSC. All rights reserved.