Shooting was an accident

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Thomas Bradford was trying to protect you.

He was trying to prevent your sludge from being spread on your public roadways. For this, a jury of your peers has given him a life sentence.

You can be proud of your Assistant District Attorney Geoffrey Fogus for protecting a few Columbia County employees, but not for protecting you.

This tragic accident on April 1, 2011, is a direct result of a Columbia County employee intentionally overfilling trailers that travel on your public roadways. This tragic accident could have been prevented, and two men would not have lost their lives.

Thomas Bradford repeatedly, over a two-year period, tried to notify the supervisors of Columbia County Waste Water that it is unsafe and illegal to transport an overfilled trailer of sludge on a public roadway. They chose to ignore these warnings.

Thomas has no prior criminal history. He was a truck driver living in Richmond County, working for a company in McDuffie County, who transported your sludge out of Columbia County.

He was passionate about following safety rules related to his truck and performing his job well. Thomas was a solitary man who just wanted to do his job and go home. He liked being alone in his truck with the companionship of his dog, and listening to the talk radio stations. He also liked to talk, and never met a stranger.

His interests were skydiving, kayaking, hiking and tent camping. He did not participate in contact sports. He is a peaceful man. He enjoyed his own company and his own space and freedom. He only shared his space with a few friends and family.

Thomas’ account of the event was that he was being assaulted and that he pulled his gun out of his pocket to stop the assault. Thomas’ dog, Rascalle, watched from the truck’s window; how we wish that she could speak.

An eyewitness sat in a golf cart 137 yards away and watched as if he expected something to happen. The tractor and trailer blocked his view of some of the activity. He knew the trailer was overfilled.

Instead of going about his job, he chose to sit and watch how Bradford would react. Let’s overfill the trailer again today and see what Bradford will do. The confrontation was set up by Raymond Lee, and resulted in a tragic accidental shooting.

Clearly, the eyewitness is feeling guilty for allowing this to happen. The supervisors are guilty of allowing this confrontation to happen. We hope the public interest in the outcome of this trial will result in an investigation of the supervision of the Waste Water Department and the protection of the employees and the public. Placing all the blame on Thomas should not release them from their negligence.

We love our son very much and we want him home with us. Since we retired, we had been enjoying his company by sharing our recreational time together kayaking, hiking and camping. We also are a very private family and keep to ourselves. We have always lived by the Golden Rule. We are not active members of large organizations, but instead we are blessed with a small group of very close friends. We thank these friends for their prayers and love and support that give us our strength.

We have sympathy for the Lee family and would like to take this opportunity to express our sympathy for the loss of their son, husband, father and brother. However, taking our son away from us will not bring Raymond back to them.

The assistant district attorney told the jury to send a message to the community. The jury and the court system have sent a very clear message: You cannot defend yourself in Columbia County.

The Thomas Bradford family


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janimal 03/18/12 - 01:54 pm
To the Bradford Family: My

To the Bradford Family: My name is Jan Justice. I live in Manning, SC. I used to work at the Laidlaw/Safety Kleen hazardous waste landfill in Pinewood, SC. I was a friend of Thomas' (aka Scooter/Buddy) when he drove for Jackie Lovett Trucking. I don't know if y'all remember me but Thomas took me to your home in Hepbizah in February of 1997. Please tell him he has been and remains in my thoughts and prayers. I would like to correspond with Thomas if it's ok with him. If he is agreeable y'all can send his mailing address info to this email address: Thanks, Jan

Martinez 03/11/12 - 07:54 am
While I sympathize with your

While I sympathize with your loss, the Lee family can't visit their son, can't write their father, can't receive occasional phone calls from their husband etc. There were other ways to resolve this that didn't involve pulling a gun. If safety violations were being committed, call OSHA. If transporting the material was not safe, refuse to accept the shipment. You have written the public presumably to sway public opinion on this subject. You lost me the minute you say that Raymond Lee setup his own death. To say that a man, son, husband, father went to work that day and purposely overloaded a trailer with the hopes of causing Bradford of flipping out resulting in his own death is void of all reasonable thinking, not to mention cold and ridiculously insensitive to their loss. While you try to recover later by saying you have sympathy, you clearly do not when your next sentence blames the victim's family for taking your son away. Law enforcement, a judge and jury of your son's peers took your son away, not Lee's grieving widow, children and family. If you want the illegal transportation issues addressed, report them to the proper authorities, something you son should have done a long time ago. If all you are after though is community pity, the dead guy's family wins. I am sure they would love nothing more then to see their loved one, whether through a closed circuit TV monitor, glass window, bars or however else possible.

Mac2406 03/11/12 - 10:12 am
Its very sad that both

Its very sad that both families have lost a love one. However, Mr. Bradford is still living and Mr Lee is not. Could the tradgedy have been prevented? Never owned a gun in my life and don't plan on buying one, but any time you aim, pull the trigger, its two late. Sometimes when we let things build up to a point of anger, it causes us to react without considering the consequences. As time passes by, Mr. Bradford will wish he was never carrying that gun. Yes, he sounds like a very good respectable person, on the other hand, good people are not suppose to let other people's behavior affect them.

ForMyKids 03/11/12 - 05:01 pm
Any parent would be upset

Any parent would be upset after seeing their son go to jail, but to blame someone else does not make matters any better. Your article clearly expresses your anger but I don't think its right to blame other people that were there, just because they didn't want to jump in front of the bullet and get hurt themselves. It's not right to now put this guilt on other innocent people's shoulders and minds.

pommom38 03/11/12 - 06:17 pm
This letter is just another

This letter is just another *he was such a good boy* excuse.
I feel sorry for you that your son did this, that he wasn't grown enough to walk away before killing someone. He is where he belongs, stop blaming everyone else.
Noone but your son pulled the trigger.

Dixieman 03/11/12 - 10:13 pm
You don't shoot people for

You don't shoot people for overloading your truck.

Jake 03/11/12 - 10:21 pm
I am with pommom and Dixieman

I am with pommom and Dixieman on this. There are ways to get your point across other than the point of a gun. No one has the right to take another persons life unless it is clearly self defense and the person is assaulting you with a weapon, not an overloaded truck.

shrimp for breakfast
shrimp for breakfast 03/14/12 - 03:15 am
A man lost his life to

A man lost his life to someone pulling the trigger of a gun. While I feel for both families this tragedy should never have occured. In fairness I think a life sentence was too much because of the lack of malice and I believe your son was scared. On the other hand a GUN should have never been part of the equasion. I have never owned a gun. They are only used for one purpose. Shooting things. Living things.
My thoughts and prayers are with both families.

beauteelady 03/24/12 - 10:19 am
Your son should be ashamed

Your son should be ashamed for what he has done to 2 families. You can try and justify it with your obvious anger but bottom line is.......CIVILIZED PEOPLE DO NOT PULL GUNS AND SHOOT UN-ARMED PEOPLE.....DUH!
You can also blame your defense team for thinking any jury would buy 2 pleas of defense. Bradford saying "Oh I had the right to act to defend myself and pull a gun on this man, (and just in case you don't believe that) "I accidently shot Lee".......sorry.....Bradford acted out of anger and the jury called him on it.
To the Family of Raymond Lee, I am so sorry you lost such a wonderful man to such a senseless crime over sludge. I will keep you in my prayers.
To the family of Bradford, God Bless you but shame on you for venting your anger and "hissy fit" on this community trying to point the blame at someone other than your loved one who owned the gun and pulled the trigger to kill a man. Society has no place for people with guns who use them when they get angry. That is a dangerous person. Take a refresher course in right and wrong....murder is one of the 7 deadly sins.

Riverman1 03/24/12 - 11:19 am
The Columbia County News

The Columbia County News Times had a column a few weeks past on the problems with the workers at the Water Treatment Plant and their "customer service." So there was obviously something not right with all this.

Having said that, two people who are not criminals and get in an argument should never have a gun introduced into the equation. Things may even escalate to a fight, but still no gun should be brought out. I took up for Bradford a good bit in the comments, but I could never get past that fact. I'll stick with the jury and their decision unless some new evidence comes out that drastically changes matters.

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