JUNE 7, 2012 10:15 a.m. (3)
Nine days after fatally shooting a suspect who was allegedly threatening to stab a woman, Master Deputy Steven Epps was returned to full duty by Greenville County Sheriff Steve Loftis on May 30, after an investigation showed that the deputy had “followed policy 100 percent.”
Epps shot David Scott Hampton, 56, five times after Hampton made “stabbing motions” toward the victim while holding her captive in a red Toyota Prius, Loftis said Monday.
The sheriff’s office placed Epps on administrative duty while it investigated the shooting, which occurred on May 21 after Epps and other officers responded to a call that the victim, Sandra Duncan, 63, had been kidnapped at knifepoint from her residence on Brockman Avenue in Greenville.
Within minutes, officers had identified the vehicle, Loftis told the Journal, and stopped it when enough backup deputies had arrived. Duncan was driving the car, with Hampton in the passenger seat.
Epps approached the passenger’s side of the Prius with his gun drawn. “He could see the suspect, Mr. Hampton, holding on to the driver of the car with his left hand, and he had a large butcher knife in his right hand,” Loftis said.
After Hampton ignored several demands from deputies to put the knife down, he made stabbing motions toward Duncan, the sheriff said. Epps “was in a position to take a safe shot at the suspect without any chance of endangering the driver of the car,” Loftis said.
Epps shot Hampton four times, after which Hampton made yet another attempt to stab the victim, Loftis said – “and that’s when Deputy Epps shot him for a fifth time, thus eliminating the threat.”
Meanwhile, other deputies extricated Duncan from the driver’s side of the vehicle.
Loftis’ investigation found that Epps had followed all of the department’s policies and procedures regarding the use of deadly force, the sheriff said, and Epps returned to work on May 30.
“I’m extremely proud of my deputies,” Loftis said. “In this case they followed policy, they followed training, and it turned out to be very successful. My thoughts and prayers go out to Mr. Hampton’s family in this tragic incident, but Mr. Hampton put Deputy Epps into a situation where he had no other choice except to eliminate the threat.”
The South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED) is currently investigating the shooting, a process that could take as long as 60 days, Loftis estimated.
“We don’t determine guilt or innocence; we just determine if policy was followed,” Loftis said. “SLED will have to complete their investigation to make sure everything was appropriate there.”
The victim, Duncan, told reporters earlier that she had known Hampton for a few months, describing him as a church-going parolee down on his luck.
“He was one of the nicest fellows you’d meet,” Duncan told television station WHNS.
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