The South Carolina Attorney General’s Office declined on Friday to pursue criminal charges against a Charleston deputy who shot and paralyzed a Black man in a case of mistaken identity, the Charleston Post and Courier reported. In this case, as with Tamir Rice, the officer shot Bryant Heyward within seconds of their encounter and claimed that he was affraid, illustrating that the police can avoid prosecution when their fear of Black males causes them to overreact.
“I cannot think of any situation where shooting an innocent homeowner who is scared to death is appropriate,” said South Carolina Democratic state Rep. Justin Bamberg, one of Heyward’s lawyers, after learning about the decision not to seek an indictment.
On May 7, 2015, Heyward got into a shootout with a burglar who broke into his home. No one was hurt, but Heyward, then 26, called 911 to report the incident and then hid in his laundry room. Deputy Keith Tyner and his partner responded to the emergency call. However, they didn’t know that the crook had escaped and that Heyward was armed. Tyner yelled at Heyward to show his hands and fired 1.1 seconds later. A bullet struck Heyward in the neck, making him a quadriplegic. The prosecutor concluded that Tyner “acted appropriately in response to an apparent deadly threat.”
There has been a lot of finger pointing in this case. Many are blaming the 911 operator for failing to tell the cops that Heyward had a gun. Some are blaming Heyward for not dropping his pistol in less than 1 second when the police suddenly appeared. But officials are not talking about the pink elephant in the room: race. Studies have shown that if Heyward was White the officer would have likely given him more than a second to put down the weapon. Tyner might have even asked him a question or two before pulling the trigger.
Bamberg was not surprised by the prosecutor’s decision because the criminal justice system favors law enforcement when an officer feels that his life is threatened.