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Colleton homeowner defends his property

Sheriff Andy Strickland

Sheriff Andy Strickland

A Colleton County homeowner is making no apologies today for shooting a burglary suspect to protect his fiancé and his property – and he is, in fact, laying blame for the entire ordeal at the feet of the county’s judges.

“The truly sad part of this story is that we had to be put in a situation to fire a gun. Until judges start enforcing the law, and putting these people behind bars and not just on probation, this county will never be cleaned up,” said Kline W. Smyly, the Colleton-area homeowner who shot a burglar at his Smyly Road home over the weekend. “Whoever is putting these people back on the streets is forcing people like me to take action, so that we don’t become victims,” he said.

Smyley and his fiancé Tanya Barnes were asleep Saturday when they were awakened about midnight by a noise. According to a sheriff’s office incident report, the suspect – 25-year-old Joseph Myers – had forced his way into the victim’s shed and was inside rummaging. Smyley said he threw his backdoor open and fired a warning shot into the air. That’s when Smyley says the suspect began to walk toward him with something in hand. “I was opening the door to scare him off…when he came out of the shed at me. I told him to stop and when he didn’t, I shot. I was not going to be a victim to a criminal,” said Smyly. “This man was 30 feet from my back door. Thirty feet from my family, from my house.”

Smyley says he yelled, “stop” before firing a second time at the man. The injured suspect then ran from the scene. Deputies say they discovered the man’s car parked nearby with a large blood stain inside. Deputies soon learned that Myers was at Colleton Medical Center, where he was being treated for a gunshot wound to the pelvis area. As of Monday afternoon, Myers was at MUSC and had undergone surgery. “It is unclear to us at this time what, if anything, was stolen from the shed,” said Ted Stanfield, spokesman for the Colleton County Sheriff’s Office. Stanfield reiterated that the investigation is still ongoing. “As soon as we know more, we will let the public know,” he said.

The sheriff’s office is still investigating the crime, and has not said whether or not a weapon was discovered in the suspect’s car. They also have not yet released what the man will be charged with. But Sheriff Andy Strickland has been very clear that the victim will not be charged with any crime. “It’s unfortunate that someone was shot in this case; however, the homeowner has the right to protect himself and his property,” Strickland said, in a press release. “The sheriff’s office will not be seeking charges against the homeowner for the shooting.”

Smyly says it’s a sad situation that he was put in, and he blames the judges in Colleton’s judicial system for putting him there. According to Smyly, the suspect was on probation at the time of Saturday’s shooting. Authorities have not confirmed this, and have not yet released whether or not the suspect has a criminal background. Though Smyly says he did not know the suspect directly, both he and Barnes say they “knew of him.” “We knew he was a thief in our area,” said Smyly. “One of the deputies responding to our house said this man was on probation. When you feel threatened, you do what you have to do,” said Barnes.

On Monday, the two would-be victims were still “shaky” from the incident, she said. “You can’t believe this is actually happening,” she said. “We didn’t know what he had in his hand … it was a scary situation. It’s horrible to think someone is that close to your back door while you are sleeping.”

Both Barnes and Smyly say they are “very happy” with the sheriff’s office’s response on Saturday night, and with the “professionalism” of the responding deputies. But, they are hoping that this will show a need for change in the courtroom. “Judges need to know more about what these people are doing,” said Smyly.

As of press deadline on Tuesday, the suspect was still hospitalized for his wounds. Unspecified charges against Myers are pending, according to Stanfield.