CHARLESTON, S.C. — Civil rights officials in Charleston on Wednesday said that the U.S. Justice Department should investigate a series of police shootings, saying that some law officers seem to think that it is OK to use excessive force against black suspects.
Dot Scott, local president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, says that Saturday’s fatal shooting of Derryl Drayton by Charleston County sheriff’s deputies is one of four police-involved shootings since March 2012 that demand a closer look.
Deputies shot and killed Drayton, a 51-year-old black man from James Island, after he cut an officer with a knife.
Investigators said Drayton first swung at deputies after he refused to stop and be questioned. Charleston County Sheriff’s spokesman Maj. Jim Brady has said deputies chased Drayton and shot him with a Taser twice to try to get him to stop.
Sheriff Al Cannon has said Drayton fought deputies’ efforts to handcuff him, and deputies fired about nine times. Investigators found six wounds on Drayton, but Cannon said it’s possible that some of the injuries were from bullets exiting his body.
As is typical in officer-involved shootings, the State Law Enforcement Division is investigating, and the deputies involved have been placed on leave. But the Rev. Nelson Rivers III, an NAACP vice president, says SLED has a “dismal record” for investigating police-involved shootings, rarely if ever finding fault with officers who kill black men.
Scott has reviewed 911 calls and dash cam video from the moments leading up to Drayton’s shooting. Though police have a right to defend themselves, Scott said, officers who have declared “open hunting season on black men” need to be removed from law enforcement.
“The question needs to be asked: what went well? What could have gone better? What could have gone different?” Scott asked this week. “Because I believe that’s where there lies an answer.”