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South Carolina Sheriff's Office retracts, apologizes for misleading statement about officer-involved shooting

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Serious mistake

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In response to widespread public criticism about an erroneous public statement issued after a June 14 officer-involved shooting, the Sheriff's Office in Greenville County, South Carolina, has retracted a portion of their initial statement and apologized to the public for "any confusion this has caused."

At issue was the department's initial claim that homeowner Dick Trench — who was shot inside his home by an as-yet-unnamed deputy responding to a medical alarm call — opened his front door and pointed a gun at the deputy. The officer's body-camera footage, which was released Tuesday, clearly showed that Trench was inside his home with the door closed when the deputy fired through a window beside the door, striking him four times.

In a prepared statement released to local media Tuesday evening, Lt. Jimmy Bolt stated, "After a full internal investigation, this statement has proven to be inaccurate and we retract that portion of the original statement. ... To be clear, at no time during the internal investigation did the Deputy make such a statement, it was miscommunicated that the door was opened."

Bolt also stated, "In the haste of releasing information, we erred and regret any confusion this has caused."

The tragic situation could easily have been much worse. Although some details of the story remain unclear, it appears that, unbeknownst to Trench, a cellphone belonging to someone in the house inadvertently triggered a medical monitoring alarm. The monitoring company attempted to reach the cellphone of the person inside, without success, and thus called 911 requesting immediate assistance to the house.

The Greenville County Sheriff's Office released audio Tuesday of the monitoring company's call to 911, and it is not immediately clear from the recording whether the 911 dispatcher understood that the call was regarding a medical alarm. It further seems from the video that the officer may have been under the impression that he was responding to a house alarm, which Trench did not have.

According to the deputy, when he arrived at the house, he rang the doorbell, but no one inside responded. It is not clear yet whether he identified himself as a police officer or what measures he took to make sure that people inside the house knew he was a police officer.

When no one answered the door, the deputy began to step off the porch in order to perform a perimeter sweep of the house. When he did so, he noticed someone moving around inside the house, and shined his flashlight through the window at the person he saw moving, who turned out to be Trench.

Trench, who had grabbed his gun before he came downstairs to see who was on his property, pointed his gun at the unknown person on his porch who was shining his light through his window, and at this point, the deputy pulled his gun and shot Trench four times.

Trench would ultimately survive and recover from his injuries. The officer-involved shooting remains under investigation.

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