Last week, an armed, violent criminal with a decades-long rap sheet shot and killed a South Carolina K9 officer – and wounded a Charleston County master deputy – while attempting to evade capture from another incident in which he shot and wounded a fellow citizen.
Why was this one-man crime spree out on our streets?
In cases like this, we often ask ourselves: How could this have happened? What could have prompted this senseless violence?
We don’t need to ask those questions in this case, though. Because in this case – and far too many cases like it in South Carolina – we already know the answers. We already know who is to blame.
One hundred percent of this violence – like far too many other instances of violence unfolding in our communities – was one hundred percent preventable.
And yet sadly, the violence is never going to be stopped until we cut out the cancer that’s causing it. That cancer, of course, is South Carolina’s broken, corrupt, upside-down system of “justice” – which perpetually insists on granting unconscionable leniency to murderers, rapists, gangbangers and thugs while subjecting the rest of us to the terror of their whizzing bullets and increasingly brazen and brutal strong-arm attacks.
We know who is standing up for the violent criminals … the question is who is standing up for the rest of us?
Less than a month before he embarked on his latest rampage of bloodshed, the suspect in last week’s shooting stood in front of a Palmetto State judge on a weapons charge. Rather than lock him up – or refer him to the feds for prosecution – the judge inexplicably turned 38-year-old Ernest Burbage III back out onto our streets.
The judge in question? Bentley Price.
If you are a regular member of our audience, that name doesn’t just ring a bell – it bangs a gong. Sounds an alarm.
Price – who is currently being considered for another term on the bench – is the poster judge for the Palmetto State’s broken judicial system. He is the cancer. We have written on numerous occasions in the past about his justice-defying shenanigans – yet he continues to wreak havoc with his rulings.
Price’s lenient sentences for violent offenders, anemic bonds for accused killers and sketchy procedural moves are case studies in everything that’s wrong with the Palmetto State’s broken system – which continues to enable widespread institutional corruption, shred the rights of victims, empower violent criminals and materially erode public safety.
Burbage – whose record of violent crime dates back to 2002 – appeared in front of Price in July of 2021 and pleaded guilty to third degree domestic violence (reduced from a second degree charge). He was sentenced to ninety days of time served. This leniency came despite his lengthy record of violent offenses – which included a litany of arrests across South Carolina and Pennsylvania.
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On August 29, 2023, Burbage appeared in front of Price once again – this time on a felon in possession of a firearm charge. Bear in mind, that’s basically the same charge federal prosecutors were (until recently) securing five-year sentences on – with no parole. Did Burbage get five years? Or even one year?
Once again, Price sentenced him to credit for sixty days of time served.
Four weeks later, on the afternoon of September 27, 2023, Burbage – allegedly under the influence of alcohol – started randomly firing a weapon at a friend’s home, according to law enforcement. A stray bullet struck a passenger in a vehicle that was traveling near the home, police say – prompting a manhunt. As deputies began searching for Burbage, reports surfaced of him being spotted at another home in the Johns Island region of the Lowcountry.
When they arrived at that location, Burbage emerged with a long gun and opened fire – wounding master deputy James Gilbreath of the Charleston County sheriff’s office in the head. Luckily, Gilbreath survived. Unluckily, Burgage was not immediately apprehended – and the manhunt stretched into a second day.
Multiple schools were shut down and entire communities saw their lives and their work disrupted.
Sheriff’s deputies and agents of the S.C. State Law Enforcement Division (SLED) eventually tracked Burbage to a one-story home on Mary Ann Point drive in Johns Island. There, attempts were undertaken to apprehend him via a robot – and later using the K9 agent, named Rico. Those attempts were unsuccessful. In fact, during Rico’s entry into the home, Burbage shot and killed the three-year-old dog – a cross between a Belgian Malinois and German Shepherd.
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After shooting and killing Rico, Burbage attempted to flee the residence by crawling out of a rear window – wielding a weapon as he emerged from the home. At this point – shortly before 2:00 p.m. EDT on September 28, 2023 – officers shot and killed him, bringing an end to the drama.
Well … at least until the next time Price or another Palmetto State judge decides to turn a career violent criminal loose on our streets.
Which is likely to be any day now, sadly.
Catch. Release. Rinse. Repeat.
Typically, SLED investigates officer-involved shootings in South Carolina. Because this incident involved SLED agents, however, the case is being investigated by the Beaufort County sheriff’s office. Count on this media outlet to keep our audience up to speed on the latest developments in connection with that investigation.
More importantly, count on us to continue calling out corruption within the Palmetto State’s judicial branch of government – especially as it relates to judges like Bentley Price whose chronic failure to lock up violent criminal poses a clear and present danger to communities all across our state.
Under no circumstances can Price be allowed to retain his seat on the bench in South Carolina. Let me repeat that: Under no circumstances can Price be allowed to retain his seat on the bench in South Carolina.
Seriously … we cannot afford to wait for certain investigations to run their course. Price has to go … yesterday.
This week, one South Carolina drew a line in the sand on the issue of long-overdue judicial selection reform. Lawmakers must draw a similar line in the sand as it relates to Bentley Price.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR …
Will Folks is the founding editor of the news outlet you are currently reading. Prior to founding FITSNews, he served as press secretary to the governor of South Carolina. He lives in the Midlands region of the state with his wife and seven children.
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