HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) - The attorney for one of the two former Horry County Sheriff’s Office deputies who was charged in the deaths of two mental health patients is speaking out for the first time since the September 2018 incident.
Bert von Herrmann says his client Joshua Bishop should not have been criminally charged.
Bishop was in the front seat of an HCSO transport van that was taking mental health patients Nicolette Green and Wendy Newton to mental health facilities.
Ex-deputy Stephen Flood was driving the van.
Flood was charged with two counts of involuntary manslaughter and two counts of reckless homicide three months after the incident, and Bishop was charged with two counts of involuntary manslaughter.
Both ex-deputies posted bail shortly after their bond hearing.
Authorities say Flood made a conscious decision to drive around a flood barrier and into floodwaters, causing the van to sink. Prosecutors say Bishop did nothing to stop Flood.
Green and Newton died after the deputies couldn’t get them out of the back of the van.
von Herrmann says the incident was a tragedy, but he says his client should not be facing criminal charges.
“I see nothing that Joshua Bishop did wrong at all,” von Herrmann said.
von Herrmann says Bishop did everything he could to prevent the incident from claiming more lives.
“There would be one more death at least had he not acted the way he acted,” he said. “He actually saved the driver of the vehicle.”
von Herrmann says the ex-deputy also tried to get Newton and Green out of the back of the van as it filled with water. He says Bishop used his gun to shoot the locks off the door to the cage the women were in since the deputies didn’t have the keys.
“He was able to use his service weapon to dislodge both of the locks, and the gate didn’t come down,” von Herrmann said.
von Herrmann suspects the gate didn’t come down because there were also locks on the inside of the gate.
12th Circuit Solicitor Ed Clements said Bishop was charged because he failed to stop Flood from driving into the floodwaters, but von Herrmann says there wasn’t much Bishop could’ve done to prevent that, even if he told Flood not to.
“What’s to say he didn’t do that? Even if he didn’t say any of that, it’s not a criminal offense,” von Herrmann said.
Stephen Flood’s attorney declined to comment for this story.
Nicolette Green’s family released a statement following the interview saying, “We have no doubt that Joshua Bishop’s lawyer argues that he is not guilty. That is what he is being paid to do. The factual evidence will be presented in court, and he will have his opportunity to argue then. Until that time, we aren’t very concerned with the feelings or comments of a paid go-between.”
Meanwhile, state lawmakers are pushing for change regarding how mental health patients are transported. Tuesday, state Senator Marlon Kimpson introduced Senate bill 303, which would make a few changes to current law.
The bill would require law enforcement officers transporting patients to have gone through mental health and crisis intervention training.
Also, the families of the mental health patient would have to be notified of the transport. Wendy Newton’s family didn’t even know she was being transported.
The bill also says officers transporting patients should dress in civilian clothes and use an unmarked sedan to the extent possible when transporting a patient.
The bill was introduced Tuesday. It’s currently residing in the Senate Committee on Medical Affairs.