An Orangeburg County Sheriff’s deputy was justified in the March 19 fatal shooting of an Orangeburg man brandishing a shovel, authorities say.
First Circuit Solicitor David Pascoe stated his office won’t be charging the deputy following a review of the State Law Enforcement Division’s investigation into the death of 42-year-old Barry Caldwell.
“Based on the totality of the facts and circumstances of this case, our office finds no criminal wrongdoing on the part of Deputy Steve Thompson,” Pascoe said Wednesday in a letter to SLED.
“The facts clearly indicate that the subject was using the shovel as a weapon and that the use of deadly force was warranted to protect the deputy and others from potential of serious bodily harm,” he said.
Pascoe said the investigation was closed unless SLED developed new information related to the case.
A 12-year law enforcement veteran, Thompson was placed on leave after the fatal confrontation on Chitwood Street. A request seeking comment on Thompson’s status from Sheriff Leroy Ravenell went unanswered Wednesday.
The incident began as Thompson was answering a harassment call on Chitwood Street involving Caldwell, authorities said. While the deputy was speaking with the victims, Caldwell was next door holding a shovel.
Thompson tried to make contact with Caldwell, who initially put the shovel on the ground. But he picked it back up and began using it “in a threatening manner,” Pascoe said.
The officer repeatedly told the man to put the shovel down, but the man kept advancing on the officer. At a distance of about 5 feet, Thompson fired once, striking Caldwell in the chest.
According to a Sheriff’s Office incident report, Thompson radioed for backup at about 12:30 p.m. While officers were on their way to help, Thompson was heard across the police radios saying several times, “put the shovel down.”
Moments after the call for backup, Thompson called for medical personnel to be sent to his location “because there were shots fired.”
Pascoe said Caldwell had a history of mental illness and confrontations with police.
Caldwell’s criminal record indicates that between 1998 and 2009, he was charged with assaulting a police officer four times. Two of the cases were dropped. On the remaining two, he served prison time.
He was also charged with assault and battery in 2005 after flinging blood on an emergency medical technician. That charge was later reduced to simple assault. In that case, Caldwell was being treated by EMS for a knife cut to his hand after a man said Caldwell tried to steal his car.
Authorities are still investigating the deaths of two civilians in two unrelated shootings involving officers.
On May 2, 2011, 54-year-old Bernard Bailey of Eutawville was shot three times during a fatal altercation in the Eutawville Town Hall parking lot. Former Eutawville Police Chief Richard Combs was only recently cleared by a federal investigation.
The Department of Justice handed over its findings to Pascoe in March, informing him that the investigation was closed.
However, Pascoe said his office is going over the 500-page case file to make its own determination.
Orangeburg County’s remaining fatal officer-involved shooting investigation has not been concluded.
Norway resident Warren Robinson, 50, died from a gunshot wound following a police chase that began in Bamberg County involving officers of the Denmark Public Safety Department and the Bamberg County Sheriff’s Office. The chase ended in lower Orangeburg County.
While the Bamberg County officer was cleared shortly after the shooting, there is still an ongoing investigation surrounding Denmark Public Safety Officer Horace Brunson.
There has been no word from federal investigators as to when that investigation may be wrapped up.
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