A prosecutor who investigated the incident said Wednesday that Sumter police officers were justified in shooting a man 19 times following a chase in December and his office will not file any charges in the case.
Third Circuit Solicitor Ernest Finney said police body camera footage clearly showed a gun in 35-year-old Waltki Williams’ hand when an officer wrestled him to the ground during a brief foot pursuit. The Sumter officer had caught Williams following a car chase that had ended moments earlier when Williams crashed into another car. Dashcam footage released Wednesday showed Williams climbing out of the car and fleeing on foot before the officer reached him.
Other officers had told investigators they opened fire after hearing a gunshot in the ensuing struggle. Finney said one officer’s body camera showed a muzzle flash near Williams’ hand immediately before the officers opened fire. Another officer could later be seen kicking the gun out of Williams hand after the shooting.
“These cases can be tough. In my opinion, it’s not a tough call,” Finney told reporters. “None of the three officers in this case will be charged. There is no evidence that I have seen that showed the officers were in any way involved in any kind of deadly force that wasn’t authorized.”
Williams’ family had filed a lawsuit against the city of Sumter and its police department, claiming Williams was unarmed in the exchange and police fired upon him 24 times while he was on the ground. Finney said officers did fire roughly two dozen shots and a coroner’s report noted 19 of them struck Williams, but he said the shooting was justified given the circumstances. Williams was black, while Finney said the responding officers were white or Hispanic.
Sumter Police said officers were responding to a 911 call from Williams’ 16-year-old ex-girlfriend, who claimed Williams threatened her with a gun at the Sumter Mall. Finney said Williams was upset the teen had ended their relationship and had also confronted her at home a day earlier (although officers did not know that at the time of the shooting).
Finney said Williams escalated the situation by fleeing from officers in his car and leading them on a chase through Sumter, eventually colliding with another vehicle. He said Williams then further exacerbated the situation by exiting his vehicle with a gun in hand. The solicitor noted the officer who tackled Williams had not even drawn his own weapon.
“Mr. Williams changed the environment out there that night by having a weapon and by firing the weapon, thus causing the officers to have to respond with like force,” he told reporters.