Deputy involved in North Charleston chase had just returned to work after shooting
When Deputy Shawn P. James sees a job for law enforcement, he can’t just look the other way, his boss says.
When he caught a man with marijuana last fall, he wrestled with the suspect and ended up getting bitten by a police dog.
When a car lurched at him during a traffic stop this spring, he shot the driver.
And it didn’t take long after that shooting for James to get back into the thick of things. Saturday night, on just his second shift since returning from a standard leave, James chased a speeding driver in a pursuit that ended with a crash and injuries.
“You have different personalities out there who do a job differently,” Charleston County Sheriff Al Cannon said. “For obvious reasons, a deputy as energetic and proactive as him is going to be involved in a lot more activity.”
Citing his agency’s policies, James declined to comment directly to The Post and Courier.
The weekend chase in North Charleston was the sixth high-profile incident involving James in his 11-year career as a patrol deputy with the Charleston County Sheriff’s Office. But when his aggressive tactics have been scrutinized, officials have backed him and investigators have cleared him of wrongdoing.
James had been off duty since April 3, when he shot 21-year-old Terrance Green on Ashley River Road. Green, who had a suspended license and now faces an attempted murder charge, drove his car at the deputy, reports stated.
James returned to the road Friday, according to sheriff’s Capt. Mike Stanley.
The chase started about 11 p.m. Saturday after James turned on his lights and siren and started speeding to the scene of a foot pursuit in West Ashley. He spotted a sport utility vehicle pull away on Interstate 526 and eventually weave through traffic.
James initially asked North Charleston police officers to stop the SUV so he could respond to the original call. But as in many cases involving him, James decided to handle things himself.
“Other officers weren’t in the position to pick up the vehicle, so he had to act,” Cannon said. “As pursuits go, that one was rather bizarre in that sense.”
Less than a minute after James decided to stop the SUV, it left the interstate, ran a red light and struck a minivan on Dorchester Road. Both vehicles rolled over.
A 60-year-old man in the minivan suffered minor injuries. The SUV’s driver, 33-year-old Eddie Clayton, was injured.
After the crash, James threatened to sic his police dog on Clayton or shoot him if he didn’t comply with commands. Clayton now faces several charges, including fleeing blue lights and reckless driving.
Everyone involved was fortunate to have walked away, the sheriff said, and he supported James’ actions.
Cannon said there simply are no guarantees when deputies are faced with an instant decision, whether to step up or stand back: Pursuing a suspect can end tragically, but letting someone go can be deadly, too.
A recent incident in which an off-duty police officer in North Charleston shot at a gas-station robber, for example, could have ended in death, Cannon said.
In the chase Saturday night and in another that Cannon started in January when a vehicle nearly struck his own, the perceived danger of the vehicle was greater than the chase itself, the sheriff said.
“It’s a mistake to look at someone after the fact and say this guy was only a traffic violator,” he said. “It’s not very much different if the individual was standing on the interstate and randomly shooting down the highway.
“In each case, there’s a similar level of complete disregard for potential catastrophe.”
Reach Andrew Knapp at 937-5414 or twitter.com/offlede.