Former North Charleston police Sgt. Eddie Bullard has escaped jail time for his staged shooting last year, but authorities said they have taken steps to ensure that he never wears a badge again.
Bullard, a 48-year-old Hollywood resident, had faced up to a year behind bars on a misconduct in office charge filed by State Law Enforcement Division agents in connection with the July 4, 2012, shooting.
The 9th Circuit Solicitor’s Office quietly dropped the charge in late August after Bullard pleaded guilty to another misdemeanor count of reporting false information to police and paid a $159 fine, court records show.
Assistant Solicitor Meg Sprinkle said she consulted with SLED and North Charleston police before dismissing the misconduct charge. Neither agency wanted to see Bullard jailed, and they decided a fine would be the best resolution “due to the fact that Mr. Bullard had ongoing mental health issues involving the probate court,” she said.
“This was a very unfortunate situation for law enforcement and for our community,” Sprinkle said. “It is worth noting, however, that neither NCPD nor SLED simply accepted Mr. Bullard’s version of what happened at face value. They realized very early on that his story did not add up and they doggedly pursued and revealed its flaws.”
Bullard declined to comment, but his attorney, Andy Savage, said the outcome was appropriate. He said Bullard, who was hospitalized at Palmetto Behavioral Health after the shooting, was desperate and struggling with personal issues at time, not someone bent on committing a criminal act.
“I always viewed this as a mental health issue, not a criminal issue,” Savage said. “Nobody was hurt but Eddie.”
The 15-year veteran was fired from the North Charleston Police Department after authorities said he shot his own protective vest on Independence Day, then reported that someone else had attacked him behind a Rivers Avenue carpet store.
Arrest warrants described it as a suicide attempt, but police sources indicated Bullard was looking to garner sympathy and, in turn, financial help. At the time he was estranged from his wife, and a former mistress had accused him of neglecting his parental responsibilities with their son, one of his attorneys has said.
The conviction is Bullard’s first, so he can seek to have the charge expunged from his record if he stays out of trouble for the next three years.
But Sprinkle said a return to law enforcement won’t be in the cards for Bullard.
The state Criminal Justice Academy, which certifies police officers in South Carolina, has been notified of his dishonesty and provided with a copy of his internal affairs file so information on his misconduct can be shared if he applies for another police job, Sprinkle said.
Savage agreed that a future in law enforcement is highly improbable for Bullard.
Dot Scott, president of the Charleston branch of the NAACP, doesn’t think Bullard’s punishment is sufficient. His initial lies pinning the alleged assault on a black man heightened racial tensions in the community and led to people being stopped and questioned for no reason, she said.
Scott said other offenders with mental health issues have not been afforded the same understanding and leniency. “The average citizen doesn’t get a break like that,” she said. “For him to walk away with a slap on the hand is not justice.”