A fight along a riverbed last year led state police to arrest the Calhoun County coroner Thursday.
Warrants from the State Law Enforcement Division accuse Coroner Donnie Porth of intentionally displaying his badge and gun in June 2015 while confronting two boaters he believed were racing dangerously on the Congaree River. SLED investigators said the 61-year-old does not have a concealed weapons permit and nothing in county ordinance or his job description allows him to carry one as a coroner.
Porth was charged Thursday with misconduct in office and presenting a firearm. He was booked by the Calhoun County Sheriff’s Office. It was not clear from the released SLED documents why it had taken a year for charges to be filed.
A sworn affidavit signed by an investigating SLED agent said Porth was at a sandbar with several others when two boats raced by the area and came close to a group of children. The affidavit said a group of adults moved to confront the boaters, but Porth stopped them and volunteered to speak to the boaters himself. He then returned to his boat to grab a gun and his coroner badge. The affidavit said the coroner pinned the badge onto his t-shirt but did not change out of his swim suit.
The agent said Porth then approached to other group of boaters with the gun in his hand and accompanied by his cousin. He demanded to speak to the other men but, seeing the gun in the coroner’s hand, they instead tackled him. The affidavit said the men knocked the gun from Porth’s hand during the struggle. Porth’s cousin then picked up the weapon and fired it into the air to break up the fight.
Porth faces up to 10 years in prison for the misconduct charge and up to five for the weapons count. Presenting a firearm is a felony conviction under state law. Porth, who identifies as Republican during his election campaigns, has not publicly commented on the charge.