South Carolina man sues police after being shot at 47 times during mental crisis
May 10, 2023, 11:29 AM
(York County Sheriff's Office via AP)
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — A man is suing a sheriff’s office in South Carolina saying deputies shot at him nearly 50 times when he was having a mental health crisis in a parked truck with a shotgun in his lap, even though he says his hands were raised.
Trevor Mullinax survived being hit nine times in May 2021, with three wounds to the head, according to the lawsuit filed against the York County Sheriff’s Office earlier this month.
The four sheriff’s deputies started shooting only a few seconds after arriving on the scene and yelling “Hands!” several times, as seen in police dash cam video released by Mullinax’s lawyers. The barrage lasted all of five seconds, leaving the pickup windshield riddled with bullet holes.
“Those officer went out there like John Wayne cowboys. They came out there like gunslingers,” attorney Justin Bamberg said at a news conference Tuesday.
Prosecutors reviewing the case did not charge the four deputies who shot at Mullinax. The officers said they saw him reach back to the truck’s rear seat, grab the shotgun and point it at them, according to a letter from Solicitor Kevin Brackett clearing the officers.
Mullinax’s mother, Tammy Beason, said she’d been trying to comfort her son for hours after he threatened to kill himself. She was standing by the driver’s-side window when the officers opened fire.
She wasn’t wounded. But deputies handcuffed her, wailing and clearly distraught, less than a minute after the shooting. Two deputies hustled her away as she cries, “What are they going to do with my son?”
The video begins with the deputies driving up to Mullinax’s truck parked on his family’s land near Rock Hill on May 7, 2021. A family member had called 911 because Mullinax was threatening to kill himself. He said “We’re just trying to get our buddy some help,” and gave the operator the cellphone numbers for him and his mother, according to the 911 call.
The deputies never called either of them, driving to the truck after Mullinax’s grandfather told them where it was located, Bamberg said.
The 47 shots were fired in five seconds, according to the State Law Enforcement Division report on the shooting. The video shows two deputies pull a bleeding and wounded Mullinax out of the truck and handcuff him.
“You’re not a death squad. You’re supposed to try to help people, even if you’ve got to shoot them,” Bamberg said, “They handcuff this man with three bullet holes in his head and then they handcuff his mama. Treat her like a criminal. This was disgusting.”
Mullinax was the only person charged in the 2021 shooting and faces one count of pointing and presenting a firearm, a felony with a maximum penalty of five years in prison. At the time of the shooting, Mullinax had a warrant for his arrest on a different charge, but his lawyers said that burglary charge was dismissed and there are no court records of it.
The York County Sheriff’s Office plans a news conference Wednesday afternoon to discuss the case. On Tuesday, the agency issued a statement from Sheriff Kevin Tolson saying he tells his deputies the goal is to serve and then go home safely to their families.
“Mr. Mullinax chose to put these men in danger by pulling a shotgun. These deputies responded appropriately to the threat as they were trained to do. Had Mr. Mullinax made different choices that day, deputies would not have been required to use force,” Tolson said.
Mullinax’s mother said it was hours before anyone told her that her son survived the shooting. She said she can no longer trust that the police will do the right thing. She replays the shooting in her mind each time she closes her eyes and flinches every time she sees a police cruiser.
“I wonder if that’s the one who almost killed me that day. Or that’s the one who tried to kill my son that day,” Beason said.
Mullinax said he hates what his mental crisis turned into.
“But if it helps one single person in this world to not have to go through what me and my family have, I’m OK with it,” he said.