Probe underway in shooting of black man by white South Carolina deputy

Reuters News
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Posted: May 08, 2015 12:53 PM

By Harriet McLeod

CHARLESTON, S.C. (Reuters) - South Carolina authorities are investigating the shooting of a black man by a white sheriff's deputy who was responding to a home invasion call at the victim's residence, officials said on Friday.

Bryant Heyward, 26, called 911 on Thursday morning to report two men with guns trying to break into the Charleston-area house his mother owns. When sheriff's deputies arrived, one shot Heyward in the neck, critically wounding him, authorities said.

Charleston County Sheriff's deputies arriving at the residence in Hollywood, about 15 miles west of Charleston, saw two men fleeing the home on bicycles before encountering the victim, who was armed, near the back door of his house, sheriff's office spokesman Major Eric Watson said.

Deputy Keith Tyner ordered Heyward to drop his gun and shot him after he failed to do so, Watson said.

Heyward had exchanged gunfire with the burglars before officers arrived and it was not clear whether he was already wounded when Tyner shot him, the sheriff's office said.

Tyner, who has been with the sheriff's office since 2006, was placed on paid leave as South Carolina's law enforcement division investigates the incident, the sheriff's office said.

Heyward was taken to a hospital with life-threatening injuries and is in critical but stable condition, Watson said.

After the shooting, a detective interviewed Heyward while medical personnel treated him inside the ambulance. Heyward can be heard on a recording released by authorities on Friday complaining of neck pain and difficulty breathing.

"I should have put the gun down but I didn't, and he thought that I was the crook and he shot," he told the detective.

One of the two burglary suspects was arrested later on Thursday and charged with attempted murder and first-degree burglary. The second suspect remained at large on Friday.

The incident comes amid heightened tensions across the United States over the police use of force, particularly against black males.

Last month, Michael Slager, a white police officer in nearby North Charleston, fatally shot an unarmed black man who was fleeing from him after a traffic stop. Slager has been charged with murder in the death of the motorist, Walter Scott.

The sheriff's office has scheduled a Friday afternoon meeting with Charleston area civil rights leaders to discuss the incident, Watson said.

(Editing by Jonathan Kaminsky, Bill Trott and Lisa Lambert)