A police officer at a small, private South Carolina college shot and killed a student from a nearby school after the student tried to run him over, authorities said Tuesday.
Two campus officers at Spartanburg Methodist College caught Delvin Tyrell Simmons and a friend breaking into cars Monday night, Spartanburg County Sheriff Chuck Wright, whose agency is helping in the investigation, said at a news conference.
Both men ran, and Simmons got into a car, hitting one officer as he tried to drive away, said Thom Berry, spokesman for the lead investigative agency, the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division.
The officer fired back, killing Simmons, Berry said.
The statements from witnesses matched what the officer said happened, Wright said. The Enforcement Division said there was no body or dashboard camera footage of the shooting. The sheriff said there might be surveillance camera video, but he has not seen it.
The officer was not seriously injured and was resting at home, devastated that he had to take someone’s life, Wright said.
“It’s sad for us too. We never want to do that. But I want you to make no mistake about it. You will not run over our law enforcement,” Wright said.
Wright said the name of the officer, who is on paid leave, would be released Thursday. He said he was speaking on behalf of Spartanburg Methodist College Police Chief Teresa Ferguson, who the sheriff said had not gone to sleep since the shooting.
Spartanburg Methodist College was on lockdown for a few hours as police investigated. But aside from the presence of extra deputies, classes went on as usual Tuesday at the two-year school that enrolls about 800 students, and there was no sign of anything happening outside the residence hall where the shooting took place.
Simmons, 20, was an early-childhood-education major at Limestone College, about 25 miles away in Gaffney, according to the college.
The second man, Oliver Chandler, also 20, was arrested a short time after the shooting and is charged with larceny. He was released from jail on bond about 12 hours later. He was a former Limestone College student, suspended for academic reasons earlier this year, the college said in a statement.
While leaving jail, Chandler told WHNS-TV that he couldn’t talk about what happened with the shooting because he wasn’t in the car. “He was my best friend,” Chandler told the station.
The shooting happened as Spartanburg Methodist College hosted a basketball game.
Simmons’ uncle, Paul Simmons Jr., said he’s trying to figure out what happened to his nephew, whom he described as an honor student who loved sports and played football in high school.
“My nephew ain’t ever done anything negative,” he said in a brief phone interview. “He was a good person. Honor student and everything.”
Asked what he wanted people to know about his nephew, he replied: “He was the best. That’s all I can say right now.”
Simmons was black and the officer was white, according to Wright, who said he released the information to “cut the head off the snake before it gets to wiggling.”
“This has zero to do with color,” Wright said. “This has everything to do with an officer’s life being put in jeopardy and him defending himself lawfully. That’s what it appears to be at this point.”
South Carolina also reported its 43rd shooting by an officer on Tuesday near Myrtle Beach, topping last year’s mark of 42 and nearing the 2012 record of 45 police shootings since the State Law Enforcement Division began keeping records 15 years ago.
A shoplifting suspect was shot after dragging a Horry County Police officer with her vehicle, the division said.
SOURCE: The Associated Press