In a statement posted to its official website late Thursday, the South Carolina State Law Enforcement Division (SLED) has closed an investigation into alleged threats made by a municipal official against the Palmetto State’s largest news organization, The (Charleston, S.C.) Post and Courier.
According to the release, the agency has “completed its assessment” of comments made on social media by Jerome Heyward – who was elected in 2019 to represent the citizens of the fifth district of North Charleston, S.C.
Heyward was criticized by the paper earlier this month over his involvement in a Charleston county issue, prompting him to respond sternly during a Facebook live event.
“We just serving notice right now, you ain’t the only ones got an AR,” Heyward said during the social media broadcast, apparently referencing the AR-15 semi-automatic rifle. ” I’m going to sit that right there. You ain’t the only ones got an AR, and if we have to go to that level we gonna go there.”
“So don’t sit there thinking you the only ones got an AR and you ain’t the only ones got hunting buddies,” Heyward continued. “The only thing y’all hunting are rabbits and deer and I won’t say what we gonna be hunting. And you can put that in your pipe and smoke it.”
The Post and Courier filed a complaint about Heyward’s comments with the Charleston police department – which forwarded the matter to SLED for review given the involvement of multiple jurisdictions in the drama.
“Upon learning of the video, we immediately contacted local law enforcement,” the paper’s publisher said a report his outlet filed earlier this month.
That report claimed Heyward “said in an online video that he would use an ‘AR’ against The Post and Courier a day after the news organization published a column on July 4 about his relationship to Lowcountry governments.”
Law enforcement sources we spoke with said that assessment took “liberties” with Heyward’s comments.
(Click to view)
According to the SLED statement, its review – which was conducted with the office of S.C. ninth circuit solicitor Scarlett Wilson – “determined the comments, in the context and manner in which they were made, are not indicators of a plan or intent to commit physical harm.”
“Nor were they made with the sole purpose and intent of conveying an imminently threatening message,” the statement continued.
As a result, SLED “will take no further action unless additional information/ evidence is provided.”
Our thoughts on all of this?
First, we support SLED’s decision not to take action in this case. Heyward’s online comments were clearly repugnant – and obviously threatening in nature – but we agree they did not cross the threshold into criminal conduct. Also, Heyward has subsequently claimed – perhaps disingenuously – that he intended no harm to anyone with his remarks.
“I was not referring to a threat to anyone’s life,” Heyward told The Post and Courier earlier this month.
We find that explanation … implausible. However, we also fail to see how any amount of investigating would be able to prove him wrong (or provide Wilson’s office with sufficient evidence to press charges against him). This is why we believe SLED is correct to bring the matter to a close barring the production of any new evidence.
Having said that, we do not fault The Post and Courier one iota for acting out of an abundance of caution when it comes to ensuring its reporters’ safety. We would have done the same thing.
As for Heyward, he owes the paper – and his constituents – an apology. Criticism comes with the territory for those who hold elected office, and for him to fly off the handle in such an erratic and unprofessional manner strikes us as evidence of his unfitness for office.
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