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SLED case file reveals new details in deputy-involved shooting

New details in the now-closed state investigation into the fatal officer-involved shooting at a Walterboro church show the victim trying to take his life before the incident, and that he apparently chose to end his life via “death by cop” by staging the church break-in.
The shooting occurred on March 29th, after a deputy with the Colleton County Sheriff’s Office responded to a 911-call about a burglary happening at the Faith Walterboro Church on Hampton Street in Walterboro.
When the deputy arrived on the scene, the deputy encountered Derek Smith, a 22-year-old man from Walterboro. According to incident reports filed with the Colleton County Sheriff’s Office, Smith approached the deputy while wielding a knife.
Incident reports state that Wright refused to drop the weapon and did not listen to multiple commands to stop walking toward the officer. Smith was subsequently shot. He was taken to Colleton Medical Center and later died from the wounds.
The Colleton County Sheriff’s Office then called SLED to investigate the shooting.
This newspaper filed a Freedom of Information Request with the State Law Enforcement Division (SLED), the state agency that investigated the fatal shooting. Based on the case file supplied by SLED through that FOIA request, the shooting victim was the one who called 911 and reported the burglary. He even reported to dispatchers what he was wearing at the time of the incident.
The concluded SLED report states the deputy shot Smith while “he pursued her down the driveway of the church.” The deputy “retreated more than 110 feet” away from the suspect before firing her gun, the report states.
The file goes on to state that the shooting victim was struck “four or five times” in that shooting, and that the deputy was not wearing a body camera at the time of the incident.
Additionally, the now-concluded SLED investigation states that Smith had also tried to commit suicide in the months before this event, including a January 2019 incident where he called 911 and asked a dispatcher to send a deputy to his Colleton County residence to “kill him,” the report states. When a deputy arrived at his house, he was found holding a knife. He ultimately released that knife without any incident. Following this incident, Smith admitted to wanting to die. Colleton paramedics took him to Colleton Medical Center, where he was released the same day.
Once this investigation into the shooting was complete, the Fourteenth Circuit Solicitor’s Office declined to prosecute the deputy involved in the shooting. In September of this year, the deputy was subsequently cleared of any wrongdoing in the case, and no charges were filed against her.
Throughout SLED’s 6-month-long investigation into the shooting, that deputy had been placed on paid administrative leave. Colleton County Sheriff’s Office Spokeswoman Shalane Lowes confirmed on Monday that the deputy had also been cleared to return to work.

Heather Walters (1626 Posts)