South Carolina police officer charged in fatal shooting
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — A small-town police officer of nearly 30 years in South Carolina was charged Wednesday for shooting and killing an unarmed man who led her on a high-speed chase and then tried to run from his wrecked car, investigators said.
Hemingway police Officer Cassandra Dollard, 52, faces one count of voluntary manslaughter in the shooting early Sunday after she chased the driver 8 miles (13 kilometers) outside the limits of the town of 530 people.
Dollard tried to pull over Robert Junior Langley for running a stop sign and it turned into a chase where Langley was driving more than 100 mph (160 km/h), according to an arrest warrant from the State Law Enforcement Division.
Langley crashed his car in a ditch in rural Georgetown County and was trying to get out the passenger door when he was shot in the chest, agents said.
Dollard told investigators she feared for her life but also said she didn’t see a weapon in Langley’s hands, according to the arrest warrant. No weapon was found at the scene, state agents said.
Dollard faces two to 30 years in prison if she is convicted.
Jail records didn’t indicate if Dollard had an attorney. She will have a bond hearing Thursday morning, prosecutors said.
Hemingway Police didn’t return a phone message left Wednesday at the department.
Investigators showed the family dashboard camera footage of the shooting Wednesday morning, family attorney Bakari Sellers said at a news conference.
“They were able to hear him being shot unjustifiably. They were able to see him gargling blood and fighting for air,” Sellers said.
Langley, 46, didn’t have any arrest warrants and made no action that would have led the officer to fear she was going to be killed, Sellers said. Langley and the officer were both Black.
“He rolled through a stop sign. Add him to the list of Tamir Rice having a toy gun,” Sellers said.
The video was not released Wednesday.
Langley, a father of 10 who just became a grandfather, worked at a local chicken processing plant, his family said.
“Junior wouldn’t hurt a flea — never would’ve. He was a good man, he worked and he took care of his children,” said Brenda Williams, a friend of the family.
Sellers said the investigation looked like the officer made poor and illegal decisions that cost a man his life.
“All because a cop was, one, out of her depth and, two, apparently not trained well or didn’t listen in training,” Sellers said.
Dollard has been a police officer for all but one year since 1994, according to South Carolina Criminal Justice Academy records.
She has worked for six agencies and been fired twice. The State Transport Police fired her in 2014 after more than eight years for violating rules, regulations or policies, according to the records, which didn’t provide specifics.
Dollard was also fired from the Johnsonville Police Department in 2002 for “poor performance.” No other details were provided in the paperwork.
South Carolina has charged several officers with on-duty shootings in the past decade, with mixed results.
Former North Charleston police Officer Michael Slager is spending 20 years in prison for killing Walter Scott by shooting him in the back in 2015 as he ran from a traffic stop over a broken brake light. Former state Trooper Sean Groubert was sentenced in 2017 to more than three years in prison for shooting and severely injuring an unarmed man who was reaching for his wallet in his car’s console after he was pulled over.
Prosecutors tried former Eutawville police Chief Richard Combs twice on a murder charge, ending in hung juries. He would plead guilty to misconduct in office and was sentenced to a year of home detention for shooting an unarmed man who came to the police department to complain about a traffic ticket given to his daughter and was trying to leave after Combs attempted to charge him with obstruction of justice.
Sellers praised state police and prosecutors for acting quickly to charge Dollard after seeing the video footage.
“From the night this incident occurred, the (State) Law Enforcement Division and the solicitor’s office have been focused on finding justice,” the family attorney said.
Follow Jeffrey Collins on Twitter at https://twitter.com/JSCollinsAP.