Deputy grabs spotlight again

A forensics technician documents the scene Monday on Highway 61 near Playground Road where a Charleston County deputy is said to have fired shots at a driver who allegedly tried to run him over during a traffic stop.

The Charleston County sheriff’s deputy who shot a motorist Monday is known as a hard-charging go-getter who has been involved in a number of high-profile dust-ups over the years.

Shawn James survived a nasty wreck with a drunken driver in 2005, shot a man after a chase in 2007 and was bitten by a police dog during a scuffle with a drug suspect last year. His no-nonsense style ruffled feathers on Folly Beach a few years back, but it also earned him a Deputy of the Year Award in 2004.

“Shawn is a good police officer,” Chief Deputy John Clark said. “He’s one of those officers who is not afraid to get his hands dirty. He goes out and he works hard. And he’s effective.”

James, 38, landed back in the spotlight Monday afternoon when he opened fire on 21-year-old Terrance Green of Charleston during a traffic stop on Ashley River Road in West Ashley.

James pulled over a red sedan around 2 p.m. near Playground Road. When he went to approach the car, Green, who has two prior convictions for running from police, reportedly hit the gas and tried to run James over, authorities said. James fired several shots into the car, wounding Green, according to the Sheriff’s Office.

It remained unclear how many bullets struck Green. A police incident report states only that he had injuries to his left elbow and shoulder.

The Sheriff’s Office said Green was still undergoing treatment Tuesday at Medical University Hospital, but a hospital spokesman said she had no information to release on his condition.

Investigators plan to charge Green with attempted murder, reckless driving and third-offense driving under suspension.

Green already is on probation for a 2010 conviction for failing to stop for blue lights. Though young, he already has compiled a lengthy arrest record that includes convictions for marijuana and cocaine possession and driving under suspension, according to State Law Enforcement Division records.

A police report from Monday’s incident doesn’t state why James pulled Green over.

Clark said James noticed Green driving erratically through the area. Green tried to evade the deputy before eventually pulling over, which was why James used caution approaching the car, he said.

James could not be reached for comment Tuesday. But his attorney, Andy Savage, said James was placed in a precarious situation and had no option but to defend himself. “He’s fortunate he didn’t lose his life or become seriously injured,” he said. “He really didn’t have a choice here.”

James has been placed on administrative leave while SLED investigates the shooting, which is standard procedure. SLED spokeswoman Kathryn Richardson declined to comment on the incident Tuesday.

In 2007, James spent more than two months on leave after he shot an armed and wanted man during a July chase in West Ashley.

That incident began when James tried to stop a sport utility vehicle on Savannah Highway near Ponderosa Drive and chased it into the Melrose subdivision. The driver jumped from the car carrying a shotgun and a pistol. James gave chase, authorities said.

James pursued the man to Menola Avenue, where the suspect pointed the pistol at him. James shot the man in the leg, authorities said.

After an investigation, 9th Circuit Solicitor Scarlett Wilson concluded that James faced a life-threatening situation and was justified in using deadly force.

The same year, James found himself in the middle of controversy on Folly Beach, where he was brought in to help with summer patrols on the island. Several residents complained that his tactics were heavy-handed and that he was messing with the island’s laid-back vibe by arresting people for petty offenses such as riding a bicycle under the influence and walking in the roadway while intoxicated.

Authorities, however, have long praised James for his aggressive approach to policing. In 2004, the National Crime Enforcement Association named him its Patrol Interdiction Officer of the Year and the Sheriff’s Office named him Deputy of the Year.

“He’s an aggressive officer, but look at the results he gets,” Savage said.

James has certainly taken his share of lumps on the job. A December 2005 collision with a drunken driver in West Ashley landed him in the hospital.

And last September, he received stitches after a police dog bit and punctured his leg while deputies were trying to arrest a man in Ladson they had caught with a bag of marijuana.

Reach Glenn Smith at 937-5556 or Twitter.com/glennsmith5.