COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — A South Carolina homeowner who was shot by a deputy checking a medical alarm did not jerk open his front door with a gun and was instead standing in the home’s foyer when the officer shot through a window, according to body camera footage released Monday.
Homeowner Dick Tench has a concealed weapons permit and did have his gun in his hand, but was devastated when the Greenville County Sheriff’s Office’s initial account of the incident had him pointing his weapon at a police officer, his lawyer said.
“We were waiting to see the body camera footage to confirm what Dick knew all along — That he was shot through the window,” attorney Beattie Ashmore said. “The deputy’s version doesn’t hold up.”
The deputy was by himself just after midnight June 14 when he came to Tench’s Simpsonville home after a cellphone connected to the address sent out a medical distress alarm.
The officer rang the doorbell, but got no answer. He then stepped off the porch to look around the house when he saw movement inside, said Capt. Tim Brown on a sheriff’s office video briefing about the shooting, which included the body camera video.
The body camera footage starts with the officer shining a flashlight through a long, narrow window at a man holding a gun a few steps back from the closed door.
The deputy fires, although how many shots is not clear.
Tench is heard screaming in pain on the footage, saying he had been shot twice. “Oh my god, call the cops please!”
The deputy, standing in the yard away from the door, yells back, “I am the cops!”
The deputy gets inside and blood can be seen spreading on Tench’s shorts. The sheriff’s office pixilated his face in the video because he was not charged with a crime. The deputy then calls for an ambulance and begins first aid on Tench.
“You came to my house at 12 o’clock at night I’m sleeping. Goddamn, I’ve got to protect my house,” Tench said on the body camera video. “You (expletive)! I can’t believe you did this to me!”
“We’re not going to talk about this right now,” the deputy responds calmly. “We’re going to focus on keeping you alive, OK? So take some deep breaths and clam down and you’re going to be OK.”
Tench was shot twice — one bullet just barely missed his aorta and a second remains lodged in his pelvis. He hasn’t watched the video of the shooting and couldn’t return to his home for a month because the memories were so painful, his lawyer said.
Tench is a 62-year-old retiree, and Ashmore called him a “law abiding citizen” who was devastated when police suggested he opened his door and pointed a gun at an officer.
Hours after the shooting, sheriff’s office spokesman Lt. Ryan Flood briefed reporters near the home.
“The deputy knocked or rang the doorbell — made contact at the door. The gentleman came to the door, jerked it open immediately, presented and pointed a gun directly at the deputy at which time the deputy returned with fire,” Flood had said that day.
Tench has spoken to State Law Enforcement Division agents, who are investigating the shooting. An internal sheriff’s office investigation is also ongoing. The deputy, whose name hasn’t been released, remains on leave with pay.
The Greenville County Sheriff’s Office has a policy to release video and a brief review of a police shooting and other use of force cases 45 days after they occur.
Follow Jeffrey Collins on Twitter at https://twitter.com/JSCollinsAP.