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Solicitor reveals man shot in officer-involved shooting used trooper’s Taser; family calls for justice

Published: Sep. 16, 2021 at 3:38 PM EDT|Updated: Sep. 16, 2021 at 7:24 PM EDT
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HORRY COUNTY, S.C. (WMBF) – The 15th Circuit solicitor held a news conference Thursday afternoon on the deadly trooper-involved shooting that happened over the weekend in the Longs area.

The news conference came hours after meeting with the family of 33-year-old Tristan Vereen who authorities said was shot and killed on Saturday by Master Trooper WB Benton.

During the meeting, the family was shown part of the surveillance video from the yard where the shooting happened, but it didn’t have sound. They said they appreciated seeing the video, but said the angle it was filmed from made it hard to see what happened.

The family held a press conference earlier on Thursday and said they would like to see the rest of the video and they believe that the trooper needs to be held responsible. They added that they believe their loved one was murdered.

“I looked at that video, I saw my son running away, and they pushed him down. He was trying to get away, and they won’t even let him get away. And I say to myself, ‘Why did he have to die?’ said Vereen’s father, Nathan Livingston.

The State Law Enforcement Division is the lead agency in the investigation of the deadly shooting.

SLED said Vereen was stopped by Benton on Saturday for an equipment violation. The family said it was a cracked windshield.

“My brother Tristan should not have to die because he had a cracked windshield. A cracked windshield. He’s dead. He’s gone. We’ll never see him again. His kids will grow up without him. All because he had a cracked windshield. There’s no justice in that,” said Vereen’s sister, Miriam.

Investigators said Vereen drove away and there was a short chase before he crashed his car and took off running.

SLED said when the trooper tried to arrest Vereen there was a struggle and that’s when Benton fatally shot him.

Richardson said there has been some misinformation circulating and his office wanted to show Vereen’s family the video of the incident. He acknowledged that the family still believes that Benton murdered Vereen.

Fifteenth Circuit Solicitor Jimmy Richardson said it’s hard to see everything that happened from the surveillance video because it took place behind a vehicle. But he said Benton used a Taser on Vereen and then put the Taser down. Richardson went on to state that Vereen bit the trooper in the neck during an altercation and then picked up the Taser and used it on the trooper’s neck. That’s when the solicitor said Benton fired his weapon.

“He was in fact armed when he was shot,” said Richardson.

Richardson confirmed that Vereen was shot once in the chest.

Authorities said that Benton suffered injuries during the struggle with Vereen and had to be taken to the hospital. Benton did have to undergo surgery due to the injuries, according to the South Carolina Highway Patrol. The solicitor’s office released pictures showing the trooper’s injuries.

Richardson told WMBF News reporter Katherine Phillips that he wants to release the surveillance video to the public as quickly as possible in order to be transparent. But he said during the news conference it won’t be happening this week.

Richardson also explained that SLED’s duty is to just look at the trooper’s actions and determine if it was justified.

“They’re not looking at anything Tristan did or didn’t do, they’re not looking at anything anybody else did. Their full investigation is whether or not the officer in this case was justified in drawing his weapon,” Richardson said.

He went on to say that SLED will gather all their findings and will present it to the solicitor’s office and if a crime was committed then the trooper will be charged.

Richardson said it could take some time before SLED can send its findings to his office because the agency must receive autopsy and toxicology reports in order to complete their investigation, and those reports could take several weeks.

BODY CAMERA ISSUE

The solicitor said that the trooper was not wearing a body camera during the incident. Richardson explained that the South Carolina Highway Patrol had issued body cameras to some troopers but not all.

WMBF News investigative reporter Madison Martin has been looking into this issue for months.

SPECIAL SECTION | Body Cam: In Focus

Back in 2015, South Carolina passed a law back 2015 that said all law enforcement agencies are required to have body cameras but that mandate only stands if the department has full funds in order to make a body camera program happen.

According to documents, from 2017 to 2021, the South Carolina Department of Public Safety, which houses the state’s highway patrol, has requested more than $5.3 million to support their body cameras. But the agency has only received roughly $519,000 from the state’s fund.

There are other avenues that law enforcement agencies can take to get money, such as grants or targeted support from lawmakers.

WATCH THE 15TH CIRCUIT SOLICITOR’S FULL NEWS CONFERENCE BELOW:

Officer-involved shooting press conference | Sept. 16, 2021

LIVE: Officials from the 15th Circuit Solicitor's Office are holding a press conference regarding a recent officer-involved shooting in Horry County. https://bit.ly/2Xl7aGs

Posted by WMBF News on Thursday, September 16, 2021

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