Lawyers for Longs man killed by police hold press conference
Lawyers for Tristan Vereen’s family have raised the misconduct of the South Carolina Highway Patrol soldier who shot him and repeated allegations of an illegal traffic stop at a press conference on Wednesday.
“Tristan had the right to resist arrest,” lawyer Harry Daniels said.
At a press conference on Wednesday outside the Horrif County courthouse, family and friends of Tristan Vereen, as well as activists and lawyers, responded to videos released to the media that show parts of the fight which led to a soldier of the highway patrol who shot him.
The videos, released by law enforcement, show different angles of the car chase and the physical combat that followed. One of them has a sound in which Vereen and the soldier can be heard talking and fighting until a shot is fired by the soldier.
Vereen’s lawyers and family dispute that the initial traffic stop, for what they say was a cracked windshield, was illegal. South Carolina law is vague on the subject, according to the state code of law “no one shall drive or move a vehicle on a highway unless the equipment on it is in good working order and fit as required in this chapter and that the vehicle is in such a mechanical condition as not to endanger the driver or another occupant or any person on the road.
In the early 90 a bill amending the law code so that “a vehicle with a cracked or broken windshield that does not obstruct the driver’s view is not considered unsafe or unsafe” has made its way into state Senate committees but does not has never been promulgated.
It is not clear from the dashcam footage how cracked the windshield was. The dashcam footage was released to The Sun News by the South Carolina Department of Public Safety after an access to information request.
The home security video was shown to Vereen’s family and lawyers before being released to the media “in the interest of full transparency,” Horry County attorney Jimmy Richardson said in a statement. prepared sent with surveillance images.
“In general, we would wait until the investigation was completed before releasing any information, but a certain amount of misinformation was circulating in the community and it is our effort to mitigate any misinformation,” said Richardson.
Dash camera video
Dashcam footage, requested on September 24, shows a car chase that ends with Vereen running out of frame, chased by the soldier.
This was the second video released by law enforcement surrounding the shooting, but the first with audio. The first video, from a private home camera, posted by the Horry County lawyer shows parts of the fight between Tristan Vereen and Whitney Blake (WB) Benton but without his attache.
After the car chase through Red Bluff, the 44-minute video mainly shows the rear of Vereen’s gray Honda Element, but the officer can be heard chasing Vereen into the yard telling him to stop and that he “must be high on something.”
About 30 seconds after the start of the foot chase, Benton is heard say “get down to the ground,” followed by the sound of a taser and Vereen screaming.
“They are trying to kill me,” Vereen shouts as the sound of the taser continues. Benton yells at Vereen to “let me see your hands.”
Benton repeats the order at least five more times as the sound of the Taser lingers over the sound of the two fighting. It is not known who is using the Taser at this point in the video. Horry County attorney Jimmy Richardson said Vereen used the taser on Benton after putting it down during the fight. Photos released by the lawyer show taser marks on Benton’s neck.
The taser continues to fire as Benton yells at Vereen “I’m going to shoot you.” Benton then yells “he bites me” twice before the sound of a gunshot is heard. Photos released by the notary’s office show a black and blue bite mark on Benton.
After hearing the shot, Benton again asks to see Vereen’s hands. We hear Vereen moan and then cry “He killed me.” Help me, oh lord, help me. I was shot. Benton calls for help over the police radio.
Benton then tells Vereen to turn around, twice, “or I’ll do it again.”
Benton then returns to his patrol car and asks the dispatch for an ambulance and more officers. Benton then walks to the front of his car, entering the frame for a moment, then walks back. He moans in pain and his shoulder appears to be injured. He had to be operated on after the shooting, but police did not give details of his injuries.
Home security video
The fight takes place in a private yard with a driveway and carport on McNiell Chapel Road.
The video is two minutes and five seconds long and begins with Vereen’s car pulling into the driveway before he gets out and runs.
A South Carolina Highway Patrol car immediately follows Vereen’s car. When Vereen runs off, Benton gets out of the squad car and briefly pursues Vereen.
The foot chase ends when Benton throws Vereen to the ground in the driveway and tries to stop him. Vereen appears to be trying to run away when Benton begins to tackle him.
Benton finally drops the taser and Vereen picks it up and begins using it on Benton.
The view of the fight is partially obstructed by a carport covering the driveway, and it’s unclear when Benton pulls out his gun.
Vereen is on top of Benton when it looks like Vereen has been shot, one minute and 19 seconds into the video. Vereen can be seen falling to the side and straightening up onto his right hand and hip.
Benton is then seen walking behind a stumbling Vereen, who has streaks of blood running down his shirt. The sight of blood is mostly obscured by the black rectangle edited to hide Vereen’s face. Benton has drawn his gun and Vereen takes off his shirt.
The footage shows Benton shooting Vereen at 3:53 p.m. ET. Vereen died at Grand Strand Medical Center around 5:00 p.m.
Benton has been put on administrative leave with pay while an investigation unfolds, according to Captain Kelley Hughes of the South Carolina Highway Patrol.
South Carolina’s law enforcement division is conducting police investigations into the shootings at the request of the agency involved in the incident. The information gathered as part of the SLED investigation into the incident will be summarized in a case report to be submitted to prosecutors.
The shooting was the 28th police shootout in South Carolina in 2021. In 2020, there were 49 police shootings in South Carolina; two concerned the SCHP.
This story was originally published September 29, 2021 13:25.