No charges will be filed against Greenville police officers who tased an autistic man trying to get away from them back in December.
34-year-old Tario Anderson was tased twice after officers responded to reports of shots fired in a neighborhood just southwest of downtown on Christmas Eve. The officers said Anderson, who they did not realize was autistic, saw them and turned around to walk in the opposite direction. A police spokesman said Anderson did not respond to three different orders to stop as they began chasing him and one of the officers eventually fired his Taser. The officer tased Anderson a second time as he continued to struggle, police said.
13th Circuit Solicitor Walt Wilkins said and investigation by his office and the State Law Enforcement Division found the officers’ actions were justified. “They were investigating shots fired, which can accompany… a homicide,” Wilkins told reporters in a press conference announcing the decision Friday. “The fact that Mr. Anderson appeared evasive, a little bit erratic and fled from law enforcement officers gave them the legal right to use the force in which they chose.”
Anderson was initially charged with resisting arrest and interfering with police, but Police Chief Ken Miller said days later that investigators agreed to drop the charges when it became apparent Anderson had nothing to do with the reported gunshots.
On Friday, Chief Miller said the department is continuing to push education and preparation for dealing with those who have mental illness. He said they will also review their departmental force policy.
Anderon’s mother Carolyn also attended the press conference. She confronted officers after they tased her son in an exchange recorded with a bystander’s cell phone. Several other family members challenged the findings, accusing police of a cover-up.
Chief Miller had requested a Department of Social Services investigation into Carolyn Anderson last month, saying he had concerns about the autistic Tario walking around the neighborhood at night with $1,500 in his pocket. Carolyn Anderson tried to challenge the chief about the investigation on Friday, but Miller declared the press conference over.
A pair of African-American activists who have been arguing the Anderson family’s cause then took the podium and pledged to request a U.S. Justice Department investigation into Greenville Police policies. Rev. Ennis Fant challenged the findings that the officers did not use excessive force and repeated his calls for a new citizens review board to investigate any allegations of police misconduct.
“To ask the Solicitor to prosecute one of his own officers is like asking him to prosecute one of his own children, or one of his own friends,” Fant said.
Ed Jenson contributed to this report