Simmons guilty of shooting deputy
A jury took less than one hour Friday to find Brandon Simmons guilty of shooting Charleston County Sheriff's Deputy Jeffrey DeGrow six times.
Immediately afterward, the deputy got his pocket angel back.
Solicitor Scarlett Wilson returned to DeGrow an inch-high angel encased in clear plastic. The protective good luck charm had been a gift from his wife that he hadn't seen since the morning he was shot near Grimball Road on James Island.
Simmons, 22, received the maximum 25-year sentence from Circuit Judge Deadra Jefferson, 20 years for one count of assault and battery with intent to kill and five years for one count of possessing a firearm during a violent crime. The years will run consecutively.
One juror said the speed of the deliberation was fueled by DeGrow's account of the chase for a burglary suspect through a rural section of James Island, and his positive I.D. of Simmons as the shooter. The juror called it "the most overwhelmingly believable aspect" of the five-day trial.
DeGrow was shot Jan. 21 after chasing one of three suspects in his cruiser and on foot. At the end of the foot pursuit, the deputy was peering around the corner of a mobile home where Simmons stood holding what is believed to have been a .22-caliber revolver.
The deputy was struck six times by gunfire. He survived but wears a patch over his right eye.
During his testimony, DeGrow described having a spiritual experience with God while he lay on the ground bleeding from his wounds. He later made it back to his squad car and radioed for help.
From start to finish, the chase lasted one minute, 25 seconds. Simmons was arrested the next day hiding in an abandoned car.
Besides DeGrow's positive I.D., Wilson tried to convict Simmons through the chatter of cellphone text messages. One text reportedly sent while Simmons was on the run in an area where police had set up roadblocks said, "you think they'd stop a cab?" Wilson told the jury in her closing statement.
"He's trying to get out of there," she said of another. "The 'man's' coming," said another. Wilson called Simmons a "would-be cop killer."
Defense attorney Beattie Butler tried to poke numerous holes in the state's case, challenging the chain of custody for the police evidence and the fact that there was an absence of mud and debris on Simmons' clothes after a day on the run.
Simmons was arrested wearing an oversized pair of pants and shirt that were different from what he had been seen wearing the day before, officials said.
After the verdict, DeGrow said he had forgiven Simmons long ago and suggested he find a way to turn his life around during the long years in prison to come.
"I'm not going to carry that burden with me," he said. "This is your time to carry what you did to me."
DeGrow's wife, Lisa, told Simmons that if one of his bullets had moved even a fraction from its striking point, it would have killed her husband. She also said Simmons showed no remorse during the trial, giving her no sign to move past asking for anything other than a maximum sentence.
"You showed nothing," she said. Simmons' incarceration begins immediately.
Reach Schuyler Kropf at 937-5551.