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N. Charleston Police ID officers involved in deadly shooting as family demands transparency

Published: Jan. 19, 2022 at 4:09 PM EST|Updated: Jan. 19, 2022 at 7:04 PM EST
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NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - Several community activists joined the family of a man killed Sunday morning in an officer-involved shooting to demand answers in the investigation.

The Charleston County Coroner’s Office said Junnie Williams, 35, died in the incident.

The Charleston County Coroner's Office confirmed that Junnie Williams died as a result of the...
The Charleston County Coroner's Office confirmed that Junnie Williams died as a result of the shooting early Sunday morning.(Provided)

The shooting happened early Sunday morning, according to North Charleston Police.

Police released the names of the two officers involved in the shooting shortly before the news conference began. The officers are PFC Juan Estrada, who has served the department since 2017; and PTL Justin Whittaker, who has served since 2020, according to police spokesman Harve Jacobs.

PFC Juan Estrada, who has served the department since 2017; and PTL Justin Whittaker, who has...
PFC Juan Estrada, who has served the department since 2017; and PTL Justin Whittaker, who has served since 2020, were the officers involved in the fatal shooting, North Charleston Police said Wednesday.(North Charleston Police)

The family learned of the release of the officers’ names during the news conference, which sparked anger. Williams’ cousin, Channcy Baker, said they viewed the body earlier Wednesday, but was frustrated to learn about the release of the officers’ names from members of the news media who attended the news conference.

“So we are depending on news coverage,” she said. “We know nothing.”

Williams’ mother called learning about the release at the news conference “a low blow.”

Stand as One President Justin Hunt complained that law enforcement agencies want to instill a sense of trust with the Black community, yet won’t provide transparency in such incidents.

“I won’t back the blue until the blue backs the Black,” Hunt said. “They have to take that step and show that they’re willing to communicate and be transparent. If they want the community to work with them. It can’t be a one-sided thing, and that’s what it is right now. It’s a one-sided thing because they have the information, and they are refusing to give it away to the people who need it.”

Activists raised questions about the shooting itself as well as the ongoing investigation.

Police said officers responded to a vehicle break-in around 4 a.m. Sunday off of Crossroads Drive.

Jacobs says officers spotted a person fitting the description of the person who broke into the vehicle. Police say that person ran away and during a struggle as an officer attempted to apprehend him, the person was fatally shot.

Coroner Bobbi Jo O’Neal said he died at Trident Medical Center Sunday at 4:56 a.m. from gunshot wounds.

“What I care about is at what point in time did these officers decide that it was okay to pull their firearms?” Hunt said at the news conference. “Did he pull out a firearm? Did he point a firearm? Did he shoot at an officer? I’m here to tell you publicly there is a reason that they’re not answering these questions.”

Hunt said he believes the North Charleston Police Department called in the State Law Enforcement Division to investigate the shooting to avoid answering questions.

“They don’t need to insult our intelligence. There’s a reason and there’s a reason that they’re deferring it to SLED,” Hunt said. “We’re not asking North Charleston Police Department whether things were right or wrong. We’re not asking them whether it was the suspect or not. We want transparency.”

However, SLED is usually called in to investigate shootings that involve law enforcement officers.

Community activist Pastor Thomas Dixon said Williams’ family has been deprived of information since 4 a.m. Sunday.

“This is Wednesday now at 4:30 p.m. in the afternoon. Makes no sense,” he said. “But that’s par for the course. Law enforcement agencies have been doing this for years, especially when it comes to this thing about SLED.”

Dixon said he cannot find any law that says a law enforcement agency cannot speak during a SLED investigation into their officers.

“I really wish they would start treating us like human beings. What I mean by that is, you know, they don’t think that people have families, loved ones,” Hunt said. “The family just wants answers.”

The Rev. Jack Lewis Jr. with the North Charleston NAACP called on the African American community of Charleston County to “rise up” and let North Charleston Police Chief Reggie Burgess and Ninth Circuit Solicitor Scarlett Wilson and SLED that enough is enough.

“It’s time for us to have transparency from the city of North Charleston, from SLED and from the mayor,” Lewis said. “Enough is enough.”

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