It was not appropriate to write this column yesterday.
Yesterday, a brave and beloved veteran police officer from the city of Florence, South Carolina lay dead of a gunshot wound to the head. Meanwhile three of his fellow officers – and three county sheriff deputies – lay wounded alongside him.
Several of these law enforcement personnel are still fighting to stay alive …
Yesterday’s hail of gunfire in an upscale, suburban Florence neighborhood was one of the bloodiest assaults on law enforcement South Carolina has ever seen. It was the definitional “all hands on deck” situation, one in which cooperation between first responders and investigators should have been instinctively reflexive … automatic, seamless.
Seriously … who in their right might would choose a moment like that to engage in petty turf wars? Or grind axes from disputes related to their personal lives?
Apparently, Kenney Boone would … and did.
According to our sources, the sheriff of Florence County – who has been demonstrating what we believe to be unhinged behavior for some time now – refused to allow a special weapons and tactics (SWAT) team from the S.C. State Law Enforcement Division (SLED) to respond to the shooting. Not only that, Boone told SLED agents who were dispatched to gather evidence and conduct a forensic investigation in the aftermath of the shooting to leave the crime scene.
Instead, he called in deputies from the Richland County sheriff’s department to conduct the inquiry.
Richland County is the only other law enforcement agency in the entire state that does not allow SLED to investigate officer-involved shootings involving its deputies – something the accredited, statewide agency has been doing for decades in every other city and county in the Palmetto State.
What prompted Boone to dismiss SLED from this case?
His own personal soap opera …
It all began this summer when the 52-year-old sheriff – who recently married his on-again, off-again girlfriend Anna Hovey Boone – claimed to have received death threats from his new wife’s ex-husband, Alex Curlington.
Curlington is married to a SLED agent, Genia Curlington, and Boone was livid at the agency for not firing her – and not immediately arresting her husband – in the aftermath of these alleged threats.
SLED never had a chance to do that, though. The agency was in the middle of investigating the charge against Alex Curlington when Boone called in Richland County deputies to take their place.
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Within a few weeks, in an ironic twist, it was Boone who became the focus of similar allegations.
In late August, our news outlet exclusively obtained recordings of the threatening voicemails left by Boone for Florence County finance director Kevin Yokim. In the first message we obtained, Boone barked at Yokim to return his phone call – insisting the finance director call him back “immediately” or else he would dispatch a deputy to retrieve him.
“If I don’t get a call back I’m gonna send a deputy around your house or wherever you are to find your ass,” Bonne yelled on the recording. “Call me now!”
In a second message, Boone threatened Yokim with physical violence – as well as professional “payback.”
“I tell you what, you come to me (unintelligible) cause I’m gonna beat the -” Boone thundered. “Hell’s coming with me. If I was in Florence I would meet you personally.”
“Payback’s gone be hell I promise ya,” Boone added, vowing to use the influence of his office to create professional problems for Yokim and other Florence County officials.
Why was Boone upset? Because Yokim challenged him on what appears to have been an attempt to subsidize a vacation for his family on the taxpayer dime.
Boone’s response to all of this? He threatened those criticizing him.
“I assure you, and God is my witness, I will return the favor ten fold!!!” the recently baptized Boone wrote on his Facebook page.
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Despite all of this, we were honestly still surprised to learn of Boone’s petty, juvenile and potentially dangerous response to the tragedy that unfolded in Florence on Wednesday afternoon.
With three of his deputies laying gravely wounded in the aftermath of a gun battle, you would think the sheriff would have welcomed any help he could get. Past grudges – especially illegitimate ones – should have melted away. Faded into a shared mission. At that moment, everyone in law enforcement should have come together with a singular purpose as they do in response to literally every other tragedy we have covered.
That did not happen in Florence, though …
That Boone refused to allow professional officers with extensive training and years of experience to do their jobs is beyond contemptible – no matter the circumstances. That he refused to let them do their jobs under the circumstances that unfolded in Florence yesterday, however, is nothing short of galling – and strikes us as further evidence of his complete and total unfitness to hold office.
We do not know what has happened to Kenney Boone since his return from a stint in rehab last fall, but whatever it is … it is getting worse, not better.
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