MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WMBF) - The Myrtle Beach Police Department released dash camera footage from multiple officers’ vehicles that give an inside look at the moments surrounding the fatal Oct. 12, 2019 shooting.
Loris resident Matthew Graham, 32, died in the shooting. Cpl. Daniel Preciado and Patrolman Thad Morgan, with the Myrtle Beach Police Department, were not injured.
The 15th Circuit Solicitor’s Office cleared both officers of any criminal wrongdoing after reviewing an investigation of the incident by the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division back in December. It’s MBPD’s protocol for SLED to investigate officer-involved shootings.
The videos released on Thursday reveal multiple officers responded to the scene on the early morning of October 12.
Footage shows police cars racing through the streets of downtown Myrtle Beach after hearing “shots fired.”
Gunshots are clearly heard from a few vehicles on scene and more than a dozen officers rush to the scene on 65th Avenue North.
One of the officers is taken to the side of the road, visibly shaken up. Other officers surround him immediately. The other officer involved is taken to the side of the car and repeatedly asked, “You good?”
Responding officers perform medical aid to Graham who is still lying off by the sidewalk.
The fire department shows up and officers block off the scene. The dashcam footage shows two hours of Myrtle Beach police officers working the scene.
Before the shooting
Police reports show Graham was a suspect in a burglary incident days before the shooting. He also had a warrant out for his arrest for firing a gun within city limits.
Hours before the shooting, an MBPD officer received a call about Graham and set up a perimeter around the Circle K on North Kings Highway. Officers said he had a rifle with him. Officers tried to locate and negotiate with Graham for about two hours but Graham managed to escape by jumping the fence towards a townhome complex.
Preciado and Morgan found Graham riding a bicycle with a rifle on the handlebars, according to SLED’s investigation.
The dashcam video shows that Graham crashes the bike and falls to the ground.
SLED’s report states the officers gave verbal commands for Graham to drop the gun but he did not.
Morgan said he saw the barrel of the rifle pointed in his direction, according to the SLED report.
"Pfc. Morgan feared for his life and Cpl. Preciado’s life. Pfc. Morgan fired his weapon until the threat was ended,” the SLED report stated.
Morgan puts Graham in handcuffs and places him on the sidewalk.
In its report, SLED said the officers’ statements are consistent with body cam footage. Bodycam footage was not provided to WMBF.
The SLED report did note that “the rifle cannot be seen in his BWC prior to the officers shooting because of the poor lighting.”
A rifle was collected and process as evidence from the scene.
Graham was pronounced dead at Grand Strand Medical Center.
SLED’s report reveals the Circle K clerk told MBPD she talked with Graham the day before the shooting and he told her, “he wasn’t going back to jail and that they would have to kill him.”
The report also stated, “As Graham was walking out of the store, he made a comment that Horry County gets away with it every time and all he has to do is hold his hand up like he has a gun, and they will do it.”
As part of SLED’s investigation, officials ran a background check on Graham that found he was prohibited from possessing or acquiring a firearm.
The toxicology reports found Graham tested positive for amphetamines and cannabinoids at the time of the shooting.
SLED’s entire investigation was turned over to the 15th Circuit Solicitor’s Office in December.
Solicitor Jimmy Richardson said it’s up to his office to determine if the officers can be charged beyond a reasonable doubt. The office could charge the police officers with murder or police brutality.
“This case wasn’t even close," Richardson said.
The office reviewed video footage and the case reports but did not find police brutality.
“Everything that SLED had gathered it looked like the officers were not at fault. Since that time I’ve met with the family and obviously they’ve got questions. I’ve tried to hook them up with SLED because we don’t keep all the reports,” Richardson said.
The SLED report did state investigators received a call from Graham’s girlfriend in November. The report said the woman told SLED that Graham did not have a gun on him that night and she had video to prove it. The investigation never stated whether a video was sent.
Richardson said he feels for Graham’s family.
“My heart bleeds for them but I also see and when you look at all this stuff you have to account for also what the officer was up against and you only have a split second to make that determination," Richardson said. "It is not a great job and this is one of the harder parts of it but you got to make a decision that is going to mean you either go home to your family or you don’t go home to your family.”