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Florence man shot by volunteer constable in 2018 sues over injuries

Bodycam Florence constable shooting

A body-worn camera video from a Florence police officer shows state constable Christopher Bachochin firing at a car that backed up and hit a cruiser during a Saturday, March 24, 2018, traffic stop. Provided

A man has sued the city of Florence and the volunteer constable who shot him during a traffic stop in 2018, alleging they violated his civil rights through the use of excessive force.

Brandon Domonique Fludd was shot three times when Christopher Bachochin, a volunteer constable with the Florence Police Department, fired eight bullets into his door as he tried to speed away from a traffic stop. The shooting raised questions about how qualified such constables are to serve in the field.

Bachochin served in the Army before working for Darlington's police force for five years, after which he became a pharmacist. At the time of the shooting, he had worked in his spare time as a constable for four years in Florence, where such volunteers are often used for crowd and traffic control, officials said.

The role allowed him to carry a gun and make arrests. After the 2018 incident, the department no longer uses constables for patrol or other law enforcement duties, a spokesman said.

The lawsuit, filed Monday in state court in Florence County, alleges Bachochin permanently injured Fludd and that his use of force was not justified. 

Body camera footage shows that during the traffic stop on March 24, 2018, Fludd refused officers' request to step out of his car and would not answer questions on whether the car contained weapons or drugs. He reversed and hit an empty police cruiser, and Bachochin began shooting. The two officers with him did not discharge their weapons.

Fludd then drove off. He was later found and hospitalized.

On the body camera footage, Bachochin said he was afraid the car would hit him. 

“That (expletive) about ran me over,” the constable said in the video. The video does not show the car making contact with Bachochin.

Fludd of Florence was charged with misdemeanors accusing him of failing to stop for blue lights and malicious injury to personal property, along with a ticket for driving on the wrong side of the road.

The lawsuit alleges that since Bachochin was not struck by the car and wasn't in danger of being hit, he violated Fludd's Fourth Amendment rights to protection from excessive force.

As a volunteer constable, Bachochin wasn't properly supervised or trained by the city, the lawsuit argues.

A Florence police spokesman said the department does not comment on pending litigation. Attempts to reach Bachochin on Wednesday were unsuccessful.

A 2015 Post and Courier analysis reviewed more than 200 police shootings and found that one in four cases involved officers firing at moving vehicles, often when no one stood in the vehicles’ paths. State officials later created a program offered by the S.C. Criminal Justice Academy to train officers on such situations.

The two Florence officers had gone through that training at the time. But constables such as Bachochin, though certified by the state after attending classes at technical schools, do not attend training at the academy.

The State Law Enforcement Division opened an investigation into whether Bachochin's use of force was justified. That investigation closed after the S.C. Attorney General's Office reviewed the findings and recommended criminal charges not be filed against Bachochin, SLED spokesman Tommy Crosby said.

Assistant Attorney General Jerrod Fussnecker determined Bachochin "responded with lawful force in response to an apparent threat," according to a letter in the investigation file.

Fludd's attorney Justin Bamberg, D-Bamberg, said the case underscores the lesson that shooting should be the last resort. It's frustrating to see these same kinds of cases happening over and over, he said, especially when the person responsible wasn't a certified officer.

"A citizen getting shot by the police when they shouldn't have, you never get over it," Bamberg said. "These guys have to learn when you can shoot and when you can't. You can't take those bullets back."

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Reach Fleming Smith at 843-937-5591. Follow her on Twitter at @MFlemingSmith.

Fleming Smith covers crime and public safety for the Charleston area. A native Georgian, she previously covered breaking news and features for The Wall Street Journal and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

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