CHARLESTON, S.C. — The South Carolina Attorney General’s Office says it won’t prosecute a white sheriff’s deputy who shot and paralyzed a black 911 caller after mistaking him for a burglar in 2015.
They concluded that Charleston County Deputy Keith Tyner acted appropriately in response to an apparent deadly threat and that there isn’t enough evidence for criminal prosecution, Senior Assistant Deputy Attorney General Heather Weiss said in a letter to state investigators Friday.
The deputy was cleared by an internal investigation and returned to duty. Heyward now relies on his mother for round-the-clock care, The Post and Courier of Charleston reported .
Heyward told investigators he had called 911 because two men were trying to break into the house he shares with his mother and brother in the rural community of Hollywood, South Carolina.
Heyward, then 26, had used a gun to defend himself during the incident but didn’t drop it before help arrived, the newspaper reported.
Tyner who responded to the 911 call, shouted commands at Heyward before firing and hitting him in the neck, an incident report says.
On 911 tapes that were previously released, an officer is heard saying that the deputies did not initially know whether the person shot was one of the break-in suspects or a victim.
Heyward’s attorney, Democratic state Rep. Justin Bamberg, said he was not surprised by the decision but he took issue with it.
“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.”
Tyner might have reacted differently had he and the dispatchers who initially handled the 911 call been better trained to handle such situations, he said.
Whether Heyward pointed the gun does not matter, said Tyner’s lawyer, Frank Cornely. He said the deputy perceived that to be the case and reacted.
The shooting came a month after a white North Charleston officer shot Walter Scott, a black motorist whose videotaped killing drew broad scrutiny of that city’s police force.