COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — A police officer in South Carolina shot and killed a man who slammed his stolen car into the officer’s door as he got out to try to arrest him after a nearly 30-minute chase, a sheriff said.
The man killed was not armed, but York County Sheriff Kevin Tolson said he thinks Tuesday’s shooting was justified because the driver used his vehicle as a weapon.
“He certainly was armed with a vehicle. When you take a 2,500-pound bullet and you ram a deputy who is standing at the apex of a door, this is the end result. Period,” Tolson said at a news conference.
Tyshawn Malik Benjamin, 25, of Wendell, North Carolina, died at the hospital, according to York County Coroner Sabrina Gast, who did not say how many times Benjamin was shot.
York County Senior Deputy Korey Wedow fired three shots at Benjamin, according to dashboard camera video released by the sheriff’s office.
Wedow and a second deputy involved in the chase were not injured, Tolson said.
The 24-minute, 15-mile (24 -kilometer) chase through rush hour traffic started in a parking lot in Fort Mill, when Charlotte, North Carolina, police told deputies a Hyundai stolen about three hours earlier was located, the sheriff said.
Benjamin is seen weaving in and out of traffic, running red lights and sometimes driving on the shoulder and grass in about eight minutes of dashboard video released by the sheriff’s office.
Benjamin slowed to a stop twice before the shooting, including once in a restaurant parking lot when the two officers tried to box him in, Wedow got out of his SUV, pointed his gun at Benjamin but did not fire as the driver squeezed around the vehicles without hitting them, according to the video.
Two minutes later, Benjamin turned into a drug store parking lot and the officers boxed him in again. As Wedow got out of his patrol SUV, Benjamin put his Hyundai briefly in reverse, then squealed his tires as he ran into the SUV door, according to the video.
Wedow fired three shots, then called for an ambulance and broke the car’s window with his baton to start first aid on Benjamin, the video showed.
The State Law Enforcement Division is investigating the shooting. Wedow, who has been a deputy for four years, is on paid leave and will be put on administrative duty when he is ready to return, Tolson said.
The sheriff said an internal review will take place too, but he initially thinks his deputies were justified chasing Benjamin for 25 minutes because they didn’t know who he was or whether he might be running from a more violent crime, adding “we are not going to not pursue dangerous individuals.”
The deputy “did not make Mr. Benjamin’s choices. Mr. Benjamin made those choices. Deputy Wedow was simply defending his life,” the sheriff said. “And at the end of the day I’d rather see a deputy go home in the line of duty than the bad guy.”