Solicitor: No wrongdoing by deputies who killed woman
By Bobby Bryant, Editor, firstname.lastname@example.org
Darlington County sheriff’s deputies who fatally shot a woman wielding a knife a little more than a year ago have been cleared of any wrongdoing.
April Elizabeth Webster, 47, of Edna Street north of Darlington, was killed in December 2018 when she confronted deputies at her home with what was described as a large serrated knife.
She had a history of schizophrenia, and had stopped taking her medication, officials were told. Darlington County Sheriff Tony Chavis immediately asked SLED to investigate the case, which is routine in officer-involved shootings.
Last month, the News & Press obtained a copy of SLED’s report, which SLED said was forwarded to the 4th Circuit Solicitor’s Office in March. (However, a SLED spokesman as recently as late July told the newspaper in an e-mail that the case remained open.
The differing accounts could not be immediately explained.)
Based on the SLED report, the solicitor’s office issued no indictments in the case, 4th Circuit Solicitor Will Rogers told the News & Press. The deputies involved are not accused of wrongdoing and have long since returned to their jobs.
The SLED report says several deputies responded to 156 Edna St. late Dec. 16, 2018, after receiving a 911 call that Webster was suicidal, had cut herself “so bad” and “barricaded” herself in the house. According to the report, deputies had been called to the house before.
Deputies were told at one point that Webster had served in the military, had knives and swords in the house, and intended to kill any law-enforcement personnel who got into the house.
The report states that during the call to 911, Webster could be heard screaming and saying, “I’ve been in the (expletive) military; I will (expletive) take people out” and also saying “I will get shot tonight” and “I will die tonight.”
At one point, the report says, deputies requested aid from the Hartsville Police Department’s Special Response Team, but it’s unclear when the aid was requested or when assistance arrived.
Deputies at the scene persuaded Webster to open the back door of the house, according to the SLED report. Deputies entered and “were met by Webster, who was holding a large knife,” the report says. “She came at them with the knife, causing the deputies to discharge their firearms.” Non-lethal rounds also were fired. (A non-lethal round typically refers to rubber bullets or “beanbag” rounds.)
One deputy told investigators that “My life was in danger” during the confrontation, and that Webster never “hesitated or stopped” as he raised a rifle at her. When she was 4 to 6 feet away, the deputy said, he fired one round. “Webster stopped and came at him again with the knife,” the report says. He fired again and heard another shot fired.
The SLED report says Webster ran at that point, then turned and “began coming at them again with the knife raised.” Another round was fired and she collapsed. Deputies said they found she had another knife in a pants pocket and a stun gun in a holster, the report says. Webster was pronounced dead at McLeod Regional Medical Center in Florence, the report says.
The incident took place before all Darlington County deputies were outfitted with body cameras.
Elizabeth Gainey, who lived with Webster – “my wife of 15 years” – told the News & Press that it wasn’t necessary for the deputies to use lethal force.
“There must have been 20 cops at my home … for one sick woman,” Gainey said in a series of exchanges with the newspaper on Facebook.
“They knew she was bipolar and skitzofrantic (sic). She was extremely weak. Wore braces on her legs … elbows … ankles. She could barely walk around the house. She suffered from PTSD.”
“They are trying to get away with murdering a very sick and fragile woman,” Gainey said. “My wife. I heard the cops talking not even 10 feet away from me. I heard them laughing and saying they were sick and tired of coming to this house … dealing with that woman. Obviously … many of the cops had been to our home before and they ALWAYS sent her to the hospital.”