Update: Tuesday evening, the Greenville County Sheriff's Office issued a statement that retracted and apologized for their initial claim that the homeowner opened his door and pointed a gun at the deputy. You can read the full story here.
On June 14, Dick Trench was shot four times at his home by a Greenville County, South Carolina, sheriff's deputy. In a public statement and a Facebook post regarding the shooting, the Greenville County Sheriff's Office claimed that Trench "pulled the door open and pointed a handgun directly at the deputy," thus apparently making the shooting clearly justified.
However, thanks to just-released bodycam footage, we now know that is not what happened.
The details of what led the unidentified deputy to approach Trench's house were initially mired in confusion. Furthermore, due to the fact that the bodycam had a 30-second audio delay, some crucial details about the initial contact between Trench and the deputy — such as what, if anything, the deputy did to identify himself as a police officer before opening fire — remain unknown.
However, according to NBC News, it has subsequently been determined that police were summoned to the house when a medical emergency app on the phone of one of the house's residents was apparently inadvertently triggered without Trench's knowledge. In audio footage provided by the Greenville County Sheriff's Department, an employee of the monitoring company indicates that she is "Donna from Five Star Urgent Response requesting urgent assistance for a subscriber."
When the 911 dispatcher asked, "What is it in reference to?" the employee of the alarm company stated, "We received an open silent alarm, but there is no answer on callback."
When the 911 dispatcher asked, "Is [the alarm] coming from a vehicle or the residence, or what?" The alarm company employee stated, "It looks to be, what is it, a panic alarm from a cellphone activation."
The dispatcher then made the call out over a radio: "Copy a 1044 bravo from [Trench's address.]"
According to Trench, through his attorney, all Trench, 62, knew was that he was awoken in the middle of the night (11:54 p.m. on June 13, according to police reports) by lights outside his home, and he saw someone in his front yard. He grabbed his pistol — for which he had a concealed carry permit — and pointed it through the side window at a potential intruder that he did not know was a police officer.
At this point, the officer opened fire through the side window next to the front door, striking Trench four times. The bodycam footage begins rolling rolling shortly after, when the officer is demanding that Trench throw out his weapon. In the video, the door is clearly closed and Trench is inside his house, contrary to the department's initial claims.
The video does not indicate whether the officer announced himself as a sheriff's deputy or stated his intentions before opening fire on a resident who was inside his home, but in the video, Trench is clearly unaware that the person who shot him is a sheriff's deputy, as one of the first things he said after being shot was to ask who his shooter was, and then followed that up with, "Oh my God, call the cops, please," to which the deputy responded, "I am the cops."
As the confrontation continued, Trench asked the deputy, "What's wrong with you, man?"
The deputy responded, "You pointed a gun at me, man!"
Trench responded, "You're in my house! I saw lights, I heard the doorbell ring, and I got my gun. I'm a concealed weapons guy ... you came to my house at 12 o'clock at night, I'm sleeping, G*****n, I've got to protect my house. Oh my God, get the ambulance right now, I'm going to die."
The Greenville County Sheriff's Office released a video on YouTube with a Critical Incident Community Briefing, which included the officer's bodycam footage, the call from the medical alarm company, and other information.
Content warning: this video is graphic and contains profanity.
According to the video, the Sheriff's Office investigation into the incident is ongoing, and no determination yet has been made as to whether the officer acted in a manner "consistent with our policies and in accordance with the law."
According to a police department spokesman in the video, when the deputy arrived at Trench's house, he "rang the doorbell, but was unable to make contact with anybody inside. As the deputy proceeded to walk off the front porch to begin a perimeter check of the home, he noticed movement from inside and returned to the front door to further investigate. As the deputy returned to the front door, he noticed a man through the window on the left side of the front door.
"The man, who was subsequently identified as the homeowner, was seen on the deputy's body-worn camera and observed by the deputy holding a gun ... according to the deputy, after noticing the man inside, he illuminates him with a flashlight, and as he did so, the man, who was initially walking away from the front door turned and pointed his gun at him. In an effort to defend himself against a perceived threat, the deputy fired his issued weapon as he retreated off the porch, and subsequently struck the individual multiple times."
Trench was transported to a local hospital for treatment and has since been released from the hospital.
According to Trench's lawyer, Trench had a bullet removed from his aorta and has a bullet that is lodged in his pelvis and will remain there. He was also grazed by bullets in the forearm and back.
In a statement provided to WYFF-TV, Trench's attorney Beattie Ashmore criticized the Greenville County Sheriff's Office for falsely stating in a news conference that Trench opened the front door and pointed the gun at a uniformed police officer, and for reiterating that claim in a Facebook post that was left up "for weeks." The post has since been removed from the Greenville County Sheriff's Office's page.
The Sheriff's Office did not initially respond to requests for comment from WYFF about their initial erroneous claims. WYFF reported that the deputy is on administrative leave.