Councilman, advocate put investigators on notice - WMBFNews.com, Myrtle Beach/Florence SC, Weather

Councilman, advocate put investigators on notice

FLORENCE, SC (WMBF) - A Florence city councilman and an activist asked Wednesday for a complete and fair investigation into an officer-involved shooting inside Florence city limits.

Councilman Ed Robinson and Raymond Johnson with Action 7 said they don't believe everything the officer says about the shooting, which happened off Oakland Avenue around 11:30 p.m. on January 27.

Officer Alex Ussery is on paid administrative leave following the shooting. The man he shot, Antoine James, was released from a local hospital and is now charged with several crimes including racing, driving under a suspended license, and assault and battery with intent to kill.

Robinson and Johnson said they will ask the Federal Department of Justice to investigate the shooting. The State Law Enforcement Division is already conducting an independent investigation, but Johnson said he wants more oversight to be sure there's not a cover-up.

In addition, the men hope to help James defend himself from the charges filed against him. The said they have asked several lawyers to review his case.

"If this young man has to go against the system to fight his case, we feel that he will not get justice," Robinson explained. "This is our purpose. We want to make sure that he has the means - we want to provide the means - to get fair and equitable representation for the charges against him."

Officer Alex Ussery said in his police report he saw James racing a Ford Mustang down the street in north Florence. Ussery said once James stopped in a grassy lot off Oakland Avenue he got out to approach the car James was driving.

Ussery said he pulled his gun out because James had already driven away from police once. When Ussery approached the Mustang, James spun the car around and began driving toward Ussery, according to the police report.

Ussery said he thought James was going to run over him, so he fired his gun at James and shot him three times. The Mustang crashed into the door of Ussery's police car.

Johnson said James has a different account of what happened, and he wants to be sure the investigation includes both viewpoints.

During a news conference Wednesday Johnson showed photos of the gunshot wounds to James. He said the wounds show that James had his hands up when he was shot. Johnson also relayed more about what James said happened - that Ussery pulled his car in front of the Mustang while it was still moving forward, and that James accidentally pressed the gas pedal while he was in shock from being shot.

"For this police officer to say that he shot because he thought his life was in danger, based on the evidence that Action 7 has discovered and based on my opinion, something's wrong," Johnson said.

The day after the shooting Florence Police Chief Anson Shells defended officer Ussery's actions. He said he believed Ussery was in danger and felt threatened. He also said he believed the SLED investigation would show that Ussery acted appropriately.

Following the statements by Robinson and Johnson Wednesday, Shells repeated his defense of Ussery and said he trusted the SLED investigation to determine if anything was done wrong.

Copyright 2010 WMBF News. All rights reserved.

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