Shootout caught on tape in South Carolina

by Jenny Fisher

The Charleston County, South Carolina Solicitor says Omar Brown, an off-duty police officer and mayor candidate, acted appropriately during a gas-station shoot-out.

Charleston County Solicitor Scarlett Wilson released 911 calls and the surveillance video Monday.  She says the video plays a crucial role in her decision.

Wilson would not say how many shots were fired or who fired first, but she says it doesn't matter because the video shows an officer taking action to protect himself.

The images captured on the El Cheapo store surveillance camera look like a scene straight out of a movie.  Yet, instead of an actor, you're seeing off-duty cop and mayoral candidate Omar Brown.

At least six people called 911 to report the shooting.  One man told the dispatcher, "There's a bunch of shots just been fired here.

There was a black guy running around and someone's shooting the hell out of him."  Another caller described the gunshots as "pow, pow, pa pow" while a motorist driving by called 911 screaming, "Holy @#@#.  I thought he was gonna shoot me.  I was coming by in the truck."

Yet, it was not the calls, but the surveillance video that the solicitor reviewed repeatedly to make her decision.

Wilson said, "I have found Officer Brown acted reasonably and lawfully."  Wilson said South Carolina's Castle Doctrine justified Officer Brown's actions.

She said, "A person is not required to wait till his assailant gets the drop on him."  That's what Wilson says Antonio Rivers, who appears in a green striped shirt in the video, tried to do.

The video shows Officer Brown reach around Rivers as he was standing at the counter.

Brown grabbed his two snack cakes and a Pepsi, then walked out the door.

Yet, it's that encounter that officials say started the shooting.

Wilson said, "It is so ridiculous.  I think most of us had in our minds a shoulder to shoulder bump that can be kind of aggressive. You can barely see any sort of contact."

The video then shows River leaving the counter and rushing to his car.

The solicitor reviewed the tape with News 2 and pointed out River's arms.  She said, "Notice how his arms are out, and it appears his hands are empty."

Wilson said Rivers went to his car to get a gun, then walked to Brown's Mercedes with his right hand hidden behind his back.

That's when the video shows Brown getting out of his car, firing his gun.

The 911 dispatcher asked one of the callers, "How many gunshots did you hear?"  The caller answered, "At least seven."  They're shots, according to Wilson, that saved Officer Brown's life.

Investigators found two types of ammunition rounds at the scene.  Officer Brown had a .45 Glock that the solicitor says he fired until the threat was eliminated.

Wilson says the Castle Doctrine not only protects officers, but all citizens.

She said everyone has the right to protect themselves, whether it's in their home, their car or a business if they reasonably feel they are in danger.

Yet, River's attorney, Skip Martin, disagrees with the solicitor's decision.  In a statement saying, "At no time on the video does Mr. Rivers point or present a firearm.  Citizen Brown shot a man multiple times.  He too should be prosecuted for his actions."

Officer Brown is on paid leave from the City of Charleston Police Department until the mayoral election.

He is using the time to recover from a gunshot wound to the thigh, as well as work on his campaign.