Documents show Darlington County deputies who shot, injured suspect acted with appropriate force

News13 Investigates

DARLINGTON COUNTY, S.C. (WBTW) — Darlington County deputies who shot and injured a suspect and another person in September 2020 acted with appropriate force, according to documents obtained by News13.

A letter from the South Carolina Attorney General’s office dated March 31 said the two deputies “used lawful and appropriate force under the circumstances.” The letter states the deputies fired weapons “in response to an apparent threat in order to defend themselves and others from death or serious bodily injury.” The full report from the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED) was just made available.

Thomas Lewis and another person were shot Sept. 24 by deputies in the area of Trexler Avenue and Young Street.

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Thomas Lewis (Courtesy: W. Glenn Campbell Detention Center)

Both Lewis and the other person were taken to a hospital for their injuries. Lewis was released and placed into custody on Sept. 25, and the other person shot was released Sept. 29, according to the documents. One deputy suffered minor injuries when the Navigator crashed into his vehicle.

Dispatch received a call at about 8:12 a.m. from a person who asked for someone to get Lewis out of their house who had a past warrant for third-degree domestic violence, according to the full SLED investigative report obtained by News13 Investigates.

“I’m scared for me and my children…he wont’ leave and the police have been looking for him,” the caller said, according to the investigative report.

Deputies located Lewis in the backyard of the home and saw him drive a black 2008 Lincoln Navigator that was reported stolen Sept. 21 by the Florence County Sheriff’s Office, according to the report. The Navigator was reported stolen Sept. 21 by the Florence County Sheriff’s Office. At about 8:47 a.m., deputies tried to arrest Lewis and about one minute later they fired their weapons after they said Lewis ignored their commands.

One deputy fired his county-issued 9mm Glock 17 and the other fired his personally-owned Palmetto State Armory PA-15 .223 pistol, according to the documents. An agent notes in the investigation report that the deputy did not explain why he didn’t have his county-issued weapon with him and instead was using a personal one that was not “qualified” with the sheriff’s office.

During one of the deputy’s interviews with SLED Oct. 5, the deputy said he drew his weapon while Lewis was running to get into the Navigator. When the car moved backwards, he heard a scream from who he believed was one of the investigators. At that point, he fired five to seven rounds until the car stopped moving backwards, documents show.

As Lewis drove the Navigator away, he crashed head-on into a marked Darlington County Sheriff’s Office Chevrolet Tahoe, documents show. A deputy then hit the back of the Navigator to prevent him from getting away. Lewis was discovered to have several gunshot wounds, and another person in the back of the Navigator was shot in the head.

When Lewis began driving forward towards another deputy, a second deputy fired at the vehicle until it passed the deputy, according to the report.

An investigator with the sheriff’s office said in an interview that they didn’t fire their weapon because they didn’t see Lewis with a gun and didn’t want to hit one of the other deputies, according to the investigation.

Lewis said gunshots were coming through the windshield before the Navigator was moving, according to the documents.

According to investigators, a search warrant was obtained for Lewis’ medical records related to the shooting. He had a scrape on the scalp, puncture wounds in both upper arms, a gunshot wound to the left chest, and a puncture wound in the left front wall of the thorax. A pre-admission urine test conducted by the hospital showed Lewis had positive results for amphetamines, methamphetamines, and cannabis, according to the documents. The second person who was shot also had the same positive results.

SLED’s internal records showed no previous incidents involving either of the two deputies who shot Lewis, according to the report.

Lewis was also shot by Darlington County Sheriff’s Office deputies in 2015 after several armed robberies. In that incident, he also attempted to hit a deputy with his truck.

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