A Pendleton police officer has been cleared in the April shooting death of a man wearing only underwear who took control of the officer’s patrol SUV.
Eighth Circuit Solicitor David Stumbo on Tuesday released his final report and body camera footage of the shooting. The prosecutor said the officer was justified in shooting 46-year-old Jose Hernandez to defuse what the prosecutor called a “lethal threat.” Stumbo said toxicology reports showed Hernandez had marijuana, meth, amphetamine, cocaine, and methadone in his system.
The video showed the April 3 incident happened very quickly, with little more than 40 seconds elapsing between the officer’s arrival and the shots fired. The released footage begins with a female jogger flagging down the officer to say a man in his underwear had just chased her. The officer drove forward and encountered Hernandez.
The footage showed the officer repeatedly shouting at Hernandez to get on the ground without any response. It is difficult to determine what Hernandez is doing, since he is offscreen for most of the encounter. However, the officer fires the Taser after several warnings but the man instead begins backing up the Pendleton Police SUV. The officer fires four shots, but the car continues backing up. Stumbo said the officer indicated he thought Hernandez was reaching for a rifle between the driver and passenger seats.
After three more shouts of “Get out of the car!” the officer can be seen firing five more shots at the SUV. The car backs into a ditch off the side of the road and stops. The officer does not immediately check on Hernandez, but instead reports shots fired and takes a minute to recover. “I was wrong. Oh my God, was I wrong,” he says at one point.
After another minute, he calls Pendleton Police Chief Doyle Burdette. “Chief, I’ve had to shoot somebody up here on Woodland Circle,” the officer says into the phone.
“You OK?” Burdette responds after the officer gives his location.
“I am,” the officer answers. Burdette indicates he will call the State Law Enforcement Division, which handles most officer-involved shooting investigations in South Carolina.
Before backup arrives on-scene, a neighbor comes out of one house and asks, “Can I help with anything or are you okay?”
“I-I’m okay,” the officer responds.
Sirens are then heard as other law enforcement arrives on the scene — roughly five minutes after the shooting. The officer does not ever attempt to arrest or perform CPR on Hernandez, apparently believing him dead.
The Anderson County Coroner’s Office said Hernandez was shot four times, with a hit in the neck proving the fatal wound.
South Carolina Radio Network is not identifying the officer since he is not accused of wrongdoing in the case.