28-year-old man dies in early-morning Charleston officer-involved shooting

5 officers on paid administrative leave during SLED investigation
Updated: Dec. 29, 2020 at 6:46 PM EST
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - The Charleston County Coroner’s Office released the identity of the man fatally shot during an officer-involved shooting early Tuesday morning.

Jason Cooper, 28, of North Charleston, died at the scene of the shooting at North Romney Street at 3:24 a.m. Tuesday, according to Charleston County Deputy Coroner Supervisor Brittney Martin said. An autopsy has been ordered for Wednesday.

Cooper died after what Charleston Police Chief Luther Reynolds called an exchange of gunfire at the Bridgeview Village Apartments in the 100 block of North Romney Street shortly at approximately 3:15 a.m.

Reynold held a news conference Tuesday afternoon hours after the shooting. He said five city police officers involved in the incident are on paid administrative leave while the shooting is being investigated by the South Carolina State Law Enforcement Division.

Reynolds said the situation began when a woman called police about a domestic violence situation involving a weapon. Responding officers arrived on the scene and were met with a person with a gun and after an exchange of gunfire, a Charleston Police officer was shot in the chest area and was taken to the hospital, Reynolds said.

“That officer was wearing a ballistic vest and was examined at the hospital and has already been released,” Reynolds said. “An individual who was involved in the shooting and associated with the initial call is deceased.”

Reynolds said the suspect was an African American man. The officers involved were white, he said.

It is not clear how long the investigation will take; he said each investigation is different.

SLED taking over the investigation in an officer-involved shooting is normal procedure, Charleston Police spokesman Charles Francis said. Many investigators and police officers remain on the scene along with members of the agency’s Professional Standards Division, which is also normal policy, Francis said.

He did not say how many times the suspect was wounded in the shooting, saying that information was part of the ongoing investigation but that it would be released.

Reynolds and other officials pledged the police department would be transparent with details of the investigation.

“We think we have a good timeline of what happened, but an investigation will be underway,” Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg said. “We don’t have all the answers. We promise to be transparent and truthful, and accountable and report everything we know when we can report it to the public.”

Police responded to a call about a domestic violence situation involving a weapon at...
Police responded to a call about a domestic violence situation involving a weapon at approximately 3:15 at the Bridgeview Village Apartments in downtown Charleston. Police say a man exchanged gunfire with a police officer.(Live 5)

Tecklenburg said any loss of life is tragic, no matter who the victim is.

“So, we are sorry for this loss of life. And, and we empathize with the families of all who have been impacted by this event,” he said.

Tecklenburg also said the incident is an example of rising incidents of violence not only in Charleston but across the country, adding that South Carolina ranks towards the top in the number of domestic violence cases.

“One of the most dangerous calls 911 calls that an officer can respond to is in fact a domestic violence call,” Tecklenburg said. “You never know what’s going to happen.”

Francis said Charleston Police officers respond to hundreds of thousands of calls per year.

“Often our officers are placed into dangerous situations and confronted with violence,” he said. “While domestic violence might be a factor in this incident, violence within our community in any form should not be tolerated.”

Earlier Tuesday afternoon, South Carolina State Solicitor Scarlett A. Wilson said her office will continue to analyze and evaluate the evidence in this case, working with SLED.

“We will be in contact with the deceased’s next of kin or representative in the near future,” she said.

As a prosecutor, Wilson said transparency was the most important aspect surrounding the case.

“It is extremely important to me that we are open and transparent with the public about the legal proceedings and the continuing investigation into this matter,” Wilson said. “We are committed to notifying the public and the media as to the results of the investigation as soon as appropriate and practicable.”

This incident was the 49th officer involved shooting in South Carolina in 2020, according to SLED. It is the second this year involving Charleston Police Department. In 2019, there were 45 officer involved shootings in South Carolina; none involved the Charleston Police Department.

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