Family seeks aid for victim of shooting

Pastor Keith Hunter of Wesley United Methodist Church joined family members of Bryant Heyward’s on Tuesday to ask for the public’s help in the recovery of the 26-year-old Hollywood man who was left paralyzed by a deputy’s bullet.

More than a month after a lawman’s bullet hit his neck, crumpling him to the floor of his Hollywood home, Bryant Heyward learned this week that he likely will never stand and walk again.

The devastating revelation came to him in a television news report a week after he left an intensive-care unit, which had been the most significant development in his recovery. He remains hospitalized.

“It really gave him a major setback,” his uncle, Nathaniel Heyward, said Tuesday. “Some days, he made progress. Some days, he didn’t. It’s like an up-and-down roller coaster for Bryant.”

The 26-year-old now faces a lengthy rehabilitation process that prompted his family on Tuesday to turn to community members for help. Without health insurance, his medical bills have piled up and will continue to mount after he is taken to a rehabilitation facility in Atlanta, his uncle said.

To help Bryant Heyward cope with the expenses, family members and local activists invited people to a fundraising church service Saturday in Hollywood.

Heyward’s wounding on May 7 renewed questions about whether police officers too quickly resort to force against black men. Residents expressed similar criticism after the fatal shooting of Walter Scott, a black man, by a white North Charleston officer the month before. Heyward was armed with a gun at the time, but he had been using it to fend off would-be burglars trying to break into his home on Scott White Road.

Hollywood Mayor Jackie Heyward stood with a group of loved ones during a news conference Tuesday in front of the family’s home, not far from where Bryant Heyward was shot by a Charleston County Sheriff’s Office deputy who mistook him for a burglar. The town official said the ordeal had galvanized community support for the family and raised concerns about the violence that led to the confrontation.

“We want to stand behind this family and support Bryant and all his efforts to get better,” the mayor said. “It’s hard to sit back and see what’s happened to him physically and mentally.”

Heyward had dialed 911 on that morning after he grabbed his brother’s pistol as two men with guns tried to get into his mobile home.

When deputies showed up, Heyward opened a back door to the laundry room where he had been hiding, but he was still holding his pistol. When he didn’t immediately drop the gun within seconds of Deputy Keith Tyner yelling “Show me your hands,” Tyner fired twice.

One bullet hit his neck, paralyzing Heyward from the chest down.

By then, Heyward’s attackers were gone, though deputies later arrested them on burglary and attempted murder charges.

The State Law Enforcement Division on Tuesday was still examining whether the shooting was justified.

Heyward’s family said little Tuesday about the shooting because the SLED investigation was incomplete.

Tina Reddy, a senior adviser from the tri-county chapter of the National Action Network, attributed Heyward’s condition to missteps by the authorities, including dispatchers who took his 911 call and the deputies who went to his home.

“It was not right for him to be shot down,” Reddy said. “We have to right this wrong.”

Heyward, who has no criminal history, has been at Medical University Hospital since then, and his family’s pastor, Keith Hunter, said his mother has been at his side most of that time. The single mother hasn’t been able to work since the shooting, Hunter added, making it more difficult for her to make ends meet.

Heyward had been excited about getting out of the hospital until he learned Monday of his paralysis. Loved ones declined to discuss what he knew about his condition before he saw a news story that mentioned that prognosis.

“That just added to the burden,” Hunter said. “It’s going to make that journey much more difficult.”