As reporters and commentators try to make sense of Walter Scott’s death at the hands of a police officer in South Carolina—an incident that was caught on video and resulted in the officer being charged with murder—one data point that has been mentioned repeatedly is that Scott’s death marks the 11th officer-involved shooting in South Carolina since the beginning of this year. That is a startling fact, and one that, out of context, implies that cops in the state are shooting citizens early and often. To find out more about these cases, I called the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division, or SLED, the agency that investigates officer-involved shootings, and asked it to provide details on what happened in those previous cases. What I received was a spreadsheet identifying each shooting by date, along with the county in which it took place and who, if anyone, was hurt.
Below is a rundown, based on press reports, of each incident the SLED investigated. As you’ll see, they are all quite different from Walter Scott’s slaying. Several incidents involved situations in which officers were being shot at, or were dealing with drivers who were trying to run them over with their cars. One didn’t even involve an officer shooting anyone, but rather a suspect shooting an officer. (SLED spokesman Thom Berry told me in an email, “We include either side when the suspect fires a weapon.”)
There hasn’t been video footage released for any of these incidents, and in several cases our understanding of what happened comes primarily from law enforcement’s perspective. But it’s worth looking at what we know about these situations and to ask whether it’s fair to lump them in with the enraging tragedy that we do know took place this past weekend.
A South Carolina state trooper tried to pull a car over for speeding, but the suspect wouldn’t stop. A chase ensued, and continued on foot when the driver stopped his car in front of a nursing home and ran away. News reports are vague about when the state trooper—whose name has not been reported—fired his weapon, but it happened at some point during the chase and did not result in any injuries. The suspect was arrested about two hours after leaving his car.
In the course of investigating a burglary and the theft of a pickup truck, officers in Goose Creek were shot at after discovering two of their suspects. The officers returned fire, but only hit the truck. Nobody was injured, and the suspects were later taken into custody.
When an officer at Midlands Technical College in Columbia approached a Dodge Neon he had deemed suspicious, the driver of the car allegedly tried to run him over, moving the officer to fire at the car as it fled the scene. No one was hit; the driver was later apprehended.
A Highway Patrol officer pulled over a car on Interstate 20 that appeared to be swerving, and administered a field sobriety test to the driver. After determining that the driver was indeed over the legal limit, the officer tried to arrest him, but the driver started to walk back toward his car. According to the South Carolina Department of Public Safety, the officer attempted to use his Taser on the man but did not succeed in preventing him from getting back in his vehicle, at which point he pulled out his gun. The trooper fired his service weapon; the driver sustained non-life-threatening injuries before being treated at a hospital.* The officer was placed on administrative duty.
An officer in Bishopville fired several shots at a man who was allegedly trying to run him over with a car after the officer tried to apprehend him on suspicion of trying to cash a fake check. The suspect was treated for non-life-threatening injuries at a hospital.
A 24-year-old man accused of stealing money from a fishing store in Greenville was being pursued by deputies when he allegedly fired on them from a wooded area. One of the deputies returned fire, killing the suspect on the spot. The Sheriff’s Office undertook an internal investigation, which was still underway as of March 28.
A man suspected of committing a string of armed robberies was shot by a Darlington County officer after he tried to run the officer over with his truck, according to the Sheriff’s Office. The incident left the suspect injured but in stable condition. The officer was placed on administrative leave.
Police engaged in a standoff with a 27-year-old man following reports of gunshots inside a home in Johnsonville. After law enforcement arrived on the scene, the suspect fled into the woods, bringing several guns with him. A press release issued by the county sheriff said the suspect “fired multiple rounds at Deputies,” but attempts were made after that to calm the man down and convince him to surrender peacefully. When the suspect pointed his gun at officers a second time, he was shot and killed.
After leading U.S. marshals on a car chase through Ravenel, a 31-year-old man with an outstanding warrant for sexual exploitation of a minor was parked in an auto body lot when a fleet of police cars arrived and officers tried to arrest him. Witnesses told reporters that officers instructed the man to put his hands up, but that instead, the man started revving his engine in order to speed away. At that point a deputy U.S. marshal—apparently thinking that the car was headed toward him—opened fire on the driver, but was not successful in stopping him from escaping. The driver was later apprehended, having ditched his car and fled on foot.
This incident differs from the rest in that, while it is considered an “officer-involved shooting,” the officer in question did not actually shoot anyone—instead, someone shot at him. The trouble stemmed from an attempt by three officers to serve a 51-year-old man with a warrant for failing to appear in court for minor violations. The man shot at the officers through the wall of his house, hitting one of them in the head and sending him to the hospital, where he was listed as being in stable condition, and was still recuperating as of April 2. The suspect surrendered later that day.
*Correction, April 13, 2015: This article originally misstated that a man who was fired upon suffered injuries before being treated at a hospital. He was injured before being treated. (Return.)