COLUMBIA, S.C. -- A deputy in South Carolina who shot and wounded a 62-year-old man in the foyer of his home through a window while checking a medical alarm won’t face criminal charges.
State agents investigated the shooting, and in a two-paragraph letter on Sept. 3, South Carolina Assistant Attorney General Jerrod Fussnecker said he reviewed their findings and decided Greenville County deputy Kevin Azzara was justified in shooting homeowner Dick Tench.
Tench said the deputy never identified himself after ringing the doorbell of his Simpsonville home June 14 and the blue lights of his cruiser were not on.
Tench, through his lawyer, said he was checking on noises outside and had his gun for safety. He did not fire.
Attorney Beattie Ashmore said Tench was disappointed in the decision by prosecutors and plans to sue the sheriff’s office in federal court.
“Mr. Tench still has a bullet in his hip which will remain. The bullet near his aorta has since been removed. He continues to slowly heal. The Tenchs are still trying to comprehend how Dick could be shot through a window in his own home,” Ashmore wrote in a text.
A sheriff’s spokesman hours after the shooting said Tench jerked open the door holding his gun. But the body camera footage showed Azzara shining a flashlight through a long, narrow window at a man holding a gun a few steps back from the closed door, then firing less than three seconds later.
The sheriff’s office said the spokesman misspoke and Azzara never said Tench opened the door.
Azzara said Tench pointed the gun at him before he fired. The body camera footage released by the sheriff’s office in July is unclear. The State Law Enforcement Division has not completed a public records request to release its investigative file which would include full videos and statements.
There were no new details in the terse letter from the state Attorney General’s Office, which was first obtained by The Greenville News . An internal investigation found Azzara also didn’t break sheriff’s office policy.
After briefly backing off the porch, Azzara returns to the house and goes inside, according to the body camera footage.
Tench is heard screaming in pain, saying he had been shot twice. "Oh my god, call the cops please!"
The deputy, standing in the yard away from the door, yells back, "I am the cops!"
Azzara then calls for an ambulance and begins first aid on Tench.
"You came to my house at 12 o'clock at night I'm sleeping," Tench said on the body camera video. Tench says he had to protect his home and then says "I can't believe you did this to me!"
"We're not going to talk about this right now," Azzara responds calmly. "We're going to focus on keeping you alive, OK? So take some deep breaths and clam down and you're going to be OK."
It took Tench a month to return to his home after the shooting because the memories were so painful, his lawyer said.
There was no medical emergency at Tench’s home and the reason the call went to an alarm company has never been clarified.
This was the second on-duty shooting in just over two years for Azzara. He was one of five Greenville County deputies at another Simpsonville home in March 2017 when 50-year-old Joseph Inabinet was killed.
Azzara fired 10 rounds from a rifle and at least one bullet from his gun was removed from Inabinet, according to the State Law Enforcement Division's report on the shooting.
Deputies were called to the home after Inabinet argued with his estranged wife and he was outside with a pellet gun saying he wanted to be killed by police, authorities said.
Azzara also fired shots at Inabinet's home a year earlier, telling state agents he shot a dog at the home after it bit an officer, according to the report from state agents.
Follow Jeffrey Collins on Twitter at https://twitter.com/JSCollinsAP .