From the time a Charleston County sheriff’s deputy started shouting “show me your hands” until the first gunshot, Bryant Heyward had about 1 second to react.
Deputy Keith Tyner never ordered Heyward to drop the gun he had been using to defend himself against would-be intruders last week. Before Tyner finished repeating “show me your hands,” he fired twice at Heyward, critically wounding him Thursday behind the 26-year-old man’s home in Hollywood, according to dashboard camera video released Monday. The time Heyward had to respond, according to a Post and Courier analysis of the audio: 1.1 seconds. The footage differs from what the Charleston County Sheriff’s Office first said had occurred. A statement from the agency last week said Tyner had “challenged the subject and ordered him to drop his weapon,” and when Heyward didn’t, the deputy shot him.
But saying the account is contradictory to the video would be “unfair and inappropriate,” sheriff’s Maj. Eric Watson said Monday, especially considering the independent investigation into the shooting isn’t over. He stressed that the statement was “based on initial reports.”
“A scene of this magnitude always tends to be very chaotic in its early stages,” Watson said. “To this day, I continue to pray for Bryant Heyward’s family as well as for our deputy.”
The video shows Tyner’s response to 5923 Scott White Road, but the camera from his patrol cruiser did not pick up the shooting.
Heyward had asked for deputies through a 911 call in which he said two gunmen were trying to break into his home as he hid the laundry room. After the gunfire, Tyner realized that Heyward was the man he had gone there to help as the resident cried out that it was his house and that the deputy had the “wrong guy.”
To some experts, the footage shows the further need for an in-depth review to determine whether a different tactical approach could have prompted a different outcome for Heyward. His shooting is the latest of many nationwide in which critics have questioned whether police too quickly resort to deadly force against black men. The fatal shooting of one of those men, Walter Scott, was captured on a passerby’s cellphone video early last month in North Charleston.
Seth Stoughton, a University of South Carolina law professor and former police officer, said that ordering a possible suspect to show his hands when they’re already visible “isn’t a very good command.” But in high-stress situations, when time seems to be moving slowly, officers sometimes give orders that don’t get someone to do what they want, Stoughton said.
“A suspect, or an innocent victim like Mr. Heyward, might very well respond by holding their hands out toward the officer,” he said. “The officer may view that as a threatening gesture. ... Unfortunately, that means that officers are more likely to perceive it as resistance and respond accordingly.”
Justin Bamberg, an attorney for the family, declined to publicly comment on the video because he had not completely analyzed it.
Heyward’s condition did not change over the weekend. He remained Monday in the intensive care unit at Medical University Hospital, Bamberg said, and still cannot move his lower body.
Tyner and a backup deputy are both on paid leave.
Monday’s development came after the Sheriff’s Office late last week released an audio recording of Heyward’s interview with a detective as paramedics tended to him in an ambulance. Because of the size of the videos that also needed to be sent to the State Law Enforcement Division, which is examining whether the shooting is justified, the footage wasn’t made public until this week, Watson said.
In the interview, Heyward called the shooting an “accident.”
“I should have dropped the gun, but I didn’t,” he said then. “He thought I was the crook.”
Patrolling near S.C. highways 162 and 165, Tyner was only about a mile away when dispatchers relayed the call to deputies around 11:04 a.m. Thursday, according to the video. Two minutes later, he stopped his cruiser on a property owned by Heyward’s family.
Heyward’s grandmother, who lives next door, told Tyner that she saw the suspected gunmen go behind her grandson’s home.
“What’s going on?” Tyner said.
“We heard some gunshots,” a woman responded.
Heyward was home alone when the two men showed up looking for his brother. He had grabbed his brother’s handgun and fired twice at his assailants after they shot into his home.
“And they’re back toward that house there?” Tyner said, asking about the suspects riding bicycles.
Tyner waited for Master Deputy Richard Powell to show up and provide backup.
The footage from the camera in Tyner’s cruiser picked up the audio from the microphone on his uniform. It does not show him approach the home.
Video from Powell’s camera did not pick up his words, but it showed him walking into a driveway, drawing his pistol and disappearing behind a fence.
“I just wanted to have someone with me,” Tyner told Powell. “I’m not sure if (the gunmen) went in or not. ... I’m not 100 percent sure of that.”
Tyner mentioned that he had already talked to someone — Heyward’s grandmother — who had called 911.
“They said they heard gunshots and saw them back this way,” Tyner said. “I’m not sure if they went in this house or not.”
As the deputies spoke, a dog barked nearby.
“There’s a gunshot, a bullet hole in that window right there back in the front,” Tyner said.
During the next 28 seconds, Tyner’s microphone picked up the sound of the breeze and of him talking with Powell as they walked into Heyward’s backyard.
Heyward, meanwhile, had been talking to a 911 dispatcher and pleading for help for more than eight minutes.
When he saw the uniformed deputies from inside his home, he later told an investigator, he opened the laundry room’s door.
But Tyner saw the gun still in his hand, and the Sheriff’s Office would later say that the deputy opened fire because Heyward didn’t immediately drop the weapon. Sheriff Al Cannon said last week that it was a “split-second decision.”
No sheriff’s documents have indicated that Heyward ever pointed his gun.
“Show me your hands!” Tyner shouted at Heyward about 30 seconds past 11:10 a.m., according to the video. “Show me your hands!”
The deputy fired twice. One bullet hit Heyward’s neck.
“Wrong guy, sir! Wrong guy, sir!” Heyward screamed. “This is my house! ... My house!”
Tyner and Powell put pressure on his wound.
For Heyward, everything went numb when the bullet hit his neck, he later would tell the detective.
As the deputies tended to him, Heyward cried out in pain.
“Oh my God!” he said.
Stoughton, the USC professor, said he hoped that lessons could be learned from the shooting to “avoid similar tragedies” by thoroughly examining it. But officers’ actions, he cautioned, often depend on the situation, including whether they are out in the open without an opportunity to take cover.
“Officers, like everyone else, sometimes see what they expect to see,” he said. “An officer who has been trained to be hypervigilant about people pointing weapons at them might think he saw the suspect begin to raise his gun even when that didn’t actually happen.”
But any lessons learned shouldn’t come at the expense of more victims of police shootings, said Dot Scott, president of the Charleston chapter of the NAACP and a longtime critic of area law enforcement methods. She said that Tyner likely had a “knee-jerk reaction,” but that it was another example of “shooting now and asking questions later.”
“Police officers are supposed to be trained to handle these situations,” Scott said. “Homeowners are not trained to handle a home invasion. ... (Heyward) probably showed him his hands, and he got shot for it.”
Reach Andrew Knapp at 937-5414 or twitter.com/offlede.