Family of man killed in trooper-involved shooting in Longs calls on death to be ruled homicide
HORRY COUNTY, S.C. (WMBF) – Attorneys representing the family of the man killed in a trooper-involved shooting in Longs are calling for justice, saying the killing was unlawful.
Tristan Vereen, 33, was shot and killed by Master Trooper W.B. Benton with the South Carolina Highway Patrol on Sept. 11.
Authorities said Benton attempted to stop Vereen’s vehicle near S.C. 905 and S.C. 22. for an equipment violation, but the family said the stop was due to a cracked windshield.
Vereen led Benton on a pursuit for several minutes, which ended on a property near McNeil Chapel Road. Vereen exited his vehicle and took off on foot.
During a struggle on the ground, Benton tased Vereen but it had little impact. Surveillance footage released by the solicitor’s office shows Vereen picking up the taser and using it on Benton’s neck. Benton then fired a single shot, which struck Vereen.
Vereen died at a local hospital, while Benton was treated for non-life-threatening injuries.
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The attorneys for the family, Harry Daniels and Chantell Cherry-Lasiter reiterated Wednesday that driving with a cracked windshield is not a violation of state law. They say that since the stop was unlawful, the fatal shooting was also unlawful.
“Broken window is not against the law. Unlawful seizure is. Unlawful detention is. And if you kill someone doing it, it’s unlawful,” Daniels said.
“Why was it necessary to shoot Mr. Vereen in his chest, and why was it necessary to make the illegal stop in the first place,” Cherry-Lassiter added.
Fifteenth Circuit Solicitor Jimmy Richardson said that he has not spoken with Benton or read the statement he’s provided, so he’s still not sure if Benton pulled Vereen over for a cracked windshield. But Richardson said if the statement shows that was the case, he’ll consider that as part of the investigation.
The attorneys for the Vereen family also alleged that Benton, who was reportedly not wearing a body camera, has a history of misconduct.
WMBF News obtained a federal civil lawsuit that was filed back in August 2016 against Benton. The plaintiff, Teko Washington, claimed that Benton used excessive and unreasonable force, with the basis of the claim arising from the improper deployment of a taser by Benton.
The lawsuit states that Benton tried to stop Washington back in 2013 in Florence for speeding but Washington drove off, which led to a foot chase. During the foot chase, Washington climbed a face and that’s when Benton discharged his taser, according to the lawsuit. The court documents show that the taser hit Washington which caused him to fall from the fence, causing spinal injuries which led to his paralysis. The case was settled and dismissed in August 2017.
The family said they want Benton to be charged and called on the coroner to deem the case a homicide.
“There’s no justifiable cause for the stop on September 11 that led to this trooper murdering my brother. That’s what it is. So we just want justice for him. He deserves that much. No person deserves to be treated like a dog,” Marion Vereen, Tristan Vereen’s sister said.
Richardson said he can’t make any decisions yet as the State Law Enforcement Division continues to investigate the case.
The solicitor said in the coming weeks, investigators will run tests on the gun and taser used in the shooting. They will also be looking at the autopsy and toxicology reports.
Once SLED is done with its investigation, it will release the findings to Richardson and that’s when he will decide if charges will need to filed in the case.
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