Sheriff: James Island man threatened to kill sister, himself, deputies before he was fatally shot

Sheriff Al Cannon addresses the media Monday regarding the deputy-related shooting death of Derryl Drayton Saturday on James Island.

Before deputies went to his James Island home, Derryl Drayton told his sister that he was going to kill her, then himself.

For the family, it was the latest in a series of domestic disturbances at the Greenhill Road house.

Drayton, 51, has struggled in the past with mental illness. He also spent two years at one of the state’s high-security prisons.

Some of the Charleston County Sheriff’s Office deputies who responded Saturday night and found Drayton on nearby Seaside Lane knew what they were getting into. They had dealt with him before.

But this time, they said, he had a knife.

Sheriff Al Cannon said Monday that the law officers did everything they could to peacefully end the situation. But Drayton was intent on harming someone, he said, so two deputies took the ultimate measure.

Drayton never offered to surrender before he was fatally shot, as some community members suggested, Cannon said. But the State Law Enforcement Division has been tasked with confirming those details.

Though some of Drayton’s loved ones and neighbors expressed anger over his killing, his closest family members have declined interview requests from The Post and Courier.

The deputies had tried handcuffing him, but he hit them and said he was going to kill them, Cannon said. When they tried to negotiate, the sheriff added, Drayton held the knife to his own stomach, then to his throat.

“Don’t do it. Don’t do it,” a deputy yelled at him, according to a blurry video shot from a sheriff’s car. “You don’t want to do that.”

“Yes, I do,” Drayton screamed.

“No, you don’t,” the deputy responded.

The clicks and electric shocks from two Tasers are heard in the video. But Cannon said the stun guns didn’t bring him down.

Deputies continued pointing their Tasers at Drayton, who ran across the street as Deputy Richard Craver’s cruiser pulled up to the scene. Craver jumped out and ran after the man.

“Drop the knife!” a deputy yelled as Drayton jumped into some trees and turned around.

That’s when Drayton jabbed Craver just above the deputy’s knee, Cannon said.

Deputies fired about nine times. Investigators found six wounds on Drayton, but Cannon said it’s possible that some of the injuries were from bullets exiting his body.

Deputies William Fawcett and Levi Reiter, who fired their handguns, were placed on paid leave as SLED conducts its probe. Such an investigation typically takes months.

Craver suffered what the sheriff called a slight puncture wound that needed a tetanus shot but no stitches.

Cannon called the situation tragic but unavoidable.

“They tried to get him to drop the knife,” the sheriff said. “That didn’t work out.”

In the community between Fort Johnson and Dills Bluff roads, some residents continued to express doubts.

Trudie Mack, a neighbor of Drayton’s, said the man often did painting for her. She never knew him as someone who would carry a weapon, she said.

“Everybody has his faults,” Mack said. “But to harm someone was not in his nature.”

Drayton has struggled with mental health problems and was ordered to undergo treatment after arrests seven years ago. Court documents did not provide details about his particular condition.

In December 2005, two officers from the Charleston Police Department were sent to a BP gas station on Johns Island. When the policemen tried to handcuff Drayton on a disorderly conduct charge, they said he kicked and jabbed them with his elbows.

While Drayton was in Charleston County’s jail on two counts of assaulting a police officer while resisting arrest, a detention officer took him to a room in the medical unit, where he was left alone for about a minute, according to affidavits.

When the officer returned, Drayton had stripped off his jail clothes, thrown them onto a mattress and set the pile on fire with a lighter. The blaze damaged the bedding and the flooring, and it prompted the evacuation of other inmates. Deputies added second-degree arson to the charges he faced.

During his bond hearing, Magistrate Linda Lombard ordered him to undergo a mental health evaluation.

In May 2006, Circuit Judge Markley Dennis sent him to the county’s mental health court. The program is meant for defendants facing misdemeanors or non-violent felonies, and it requires that the participant has a diagnosed mental illness.

To qualify, Drayton pleaded guilty to lesser charges of resisting arrest and third-degree arson. Drayton’s treatment, though, would have allowed him to avoid prison time.

But in late November 2006, he found himself back behind bars for not abiding by the mental health court’s rules. The indictments against him were reinstated, and Dennis sentenced him to four years in a state prison with credit for 233 days served.

Clark Newsom, spokesman for the S.C. Department of Corrections, said Drayton was sent to prison from Dec. 13, 2006, to May 30, 2008. He spent most of that time at Lieber Correctional Institution in Ridgeville.

Just before leaving prison, Newsom said, Drayton was disciplined in April 2008 for disobeying orders, refusing to work and “fighting another inmate,” Newsom said.

He also was accused of assaulting someone about two years after his release. Deputies who were sent to his Greenhill Road home to handle that complaint reported finding 0.1 grams of crack cocaine in his room. Deputy Harry Bohlander helped take Drayton into custody.

On Saturday, Bohlander had just gotten out of his car and started to run toward Drayton when the shots rang out.

The call to 1105 Greenhill Road about 10:11 p.m. was the latest in what Cannon called a “significant history” of allegations of domestic assaults between family members.

On Saturday, 60-year-old Yvonne Aiken said her brother told her that she was a “dead (expletive) and that he would kill himself,” an incident report stated.

Drayton walked into the home and issued the threats repeatedly, Cannon said. But he left before deputies showed up.

Over their radios, deputies alerted others of Drayton’s description. The authorities soon found him at the end of Greenhill Road. They tried to talk to him, but Cannon said Drayton struck two of them, then ran away.

About 20 minutes later, a resident on Seaside Lane found Drayton at the back door. The resident saw that he had a kitchen knife, which Cannon described as having a 6- or 7-inch blade.

Another neighbor tried negotiating with him before deputies showed up.

“He’s got a knife,” a deputy said into his radio. “He’s got a knife.”

Drayton refused to drop the papers in hands or to get on the ground, Cannon said. They pleaded with him to let go of the knife, but he cursed and offered to kill himself and them, the sheriff added.

The deputies surrounded Drayton. They shot three Tasers at him, but the stun guns’ prongs didn’t hit Drayton’s skin or didn’t work altogether. Investigators were still trying to figure out why the Tasers weren’t effective.

“They’re not guaranteed” he said. “They have to make sufficient contact to deliver the charge.”

The deputies kept their distance. Cannon said they had been trained at the state police academy that a person can cover 20 feet and stab someone with a knife before the intended victim has a chance to react.

As Drayton ran across the pavement and between some trees, Craver arrived, hopped out of his cruiser and gave chase.

Craver didn’t appear to draw his weapon during his sprint toward the man in a white shirt. Drayton turned toward the officers, but his arm motions are not clear in the video.

In less than two seconds, the nine gunshots resounded.

Drayton suffered bullet wounds to his chest and his side. A bullet also hit his back — a wound that Cannon said happened when Drayton turned during the encounter.

“Good job. Good job. Good job,” a deputy said when the gunfire ended.

“Where’s the knife? Where’s the knife?” another said.

“He threw it at me,” Craver said.

“Are you OK?” a deputy asked him.

“Yeah,” Craver said. “It hit my leg.”

“Get him handcuffed,” a deputy said, “then treat him for his injuries.”

Deputies scrambled for their medical kits as they donned plastic gloves and tried to stop the man’s bleeding. But before paramedics arrived, Drayton was dead.

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