“32-year-old Bernice Smith of Aiken Dies After Taser Use by Deputies”

By | August 11, 2023

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32-year-old Bernice Smith of Aiken died after being Tasered by sheriff’s deputies in Lexington County. Smith ran away from deputies in the Red Bank area and was apprehended using a Taser. He experienced medical distress while being walked back to the patrol vehicle and was pronounced dead at the hospital. The incident is being investigated by the State Law Enforcement Division. This is the second incident in South Carolina in four months where a person died after a Taser was used in police custody. Post and Courier reported

A man named Bernice Smith, aged 32, from Aiken, died on August 9th after being subjected to the use of a Taser by sheriff’s deputies in Lexington. The incident occurred in the Red Bank area, which is a developing cluster of shopping and residential communities located west of Columbia and just south of Lexington. According to the Lexington County Sheriff’s Department, Smith fled from the deputies and was apprehended using a Taser after entering a nearby wooded area. It is unclear how many times or for how long the Taser was used on Smith. Sheriff Jay Koon stated that while being escorted back to the patrol vehicle in handcuffs, Smith began showing signs of medical distress. The exact location of the incident has not been disclosed by the Sheriff’s Department.

Sheriff Koon mentioned that the deputies were aware of an outstanding arrest warrant for shoplifting against Smith when they encountered him at the store in Red Bank. He claimed that Smith ran away upon hearing about the warrant and that the use of the Taser was necessary because Smith did not comply with verbal commands during the apprehension.

After being taken back to the patrol vehicle, the handcuffs were removed from Smith as he became unresponsive. Lexington County Emergency Medical Services transported him to a hospital where he was later pronounced dead. Sheriff Koon stated that an investigation is underway to determine the cause of Smith’s death, which is being led by the State Law Enforcement Division. An autopsy was scheduled for August 11th at the Medical University of Charleston, as confirmed by Lexington County Coroner Margaret Fisher.

Meanwhile, the deputies involved in the incident have been placed on paid administrative leave while the investigation by the State Law Enforcement Division takes place. Coroner Fisher expressed condolences to Smith’s family and friends.

This incident marks the second occurrence in South Carolina within four months where a person died while in police custody after the use of a Taser. In a separate incident in Aiken, a wrongful death lawsuit was filed against Aiken County Sheriff’s Deputies in June on behalf of a man who died while in police custody. The lawsuit alleges excessive force and gross negligence on the part of the deputies during an incident on May 3rd, where the man was subjected to at least three Taser discharges despite posing no threat to the officers.

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