A former deputy in Aiken County, South Carolina has been charged with misconduct in office and assault and battery in the first degree over his handling of a March traffic stop in which he fired his weapon as a driver attempted to flee.
Christopher Lamar Williams, 31, of Belvedere, S.C., was arrested on December 1, 2023 by agents of the S.C. State Law Enforcement Division (SLED). He was taken to the Aiken County detention center where he bonded out within three hours.
The incident occurred on March 7, 2023 when Williams stopped a 1997 Pathfinder in Warrenville, S.C. for failure to maintain its lane. He asked the driver to exit the vehicle and the driver refused. With the vehicle door open to Williams’ left, the driver put the car in drive and fled the traffic stop.
“Williams drew his ACSO issued firearm and fired one shot striking the rear driver’s side … causing the potential for great bodily injury or death to occur,” according to the arrest warrant. “Williams’ in-car video showed [the driver] took no overt action to endanger Williams other than fleeing from the traffic stop.”
Williams’ employment with the Aiken County Sheriff’s Department was terminated the following day. His separation papers from the sheriff’s department explain that he was fired for misconduct, which was further defined as “dangerous or unsafe practices involving firearms, weapons, or vehicles which indicate either a willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property.”
His actions were found to be in violation of the department’s use of force policy and his description of the event did not match the video footage of the traffic stop, as explained in the document:
“On 3/7/2023 (Williams) initiated a traffic stop that led to a short pursuit. During the encounter with the driver, who was non-compliant with Deputy Williams drove away with him still inside the driver’s door of the violator’s vehicle. Deputy Williams drew his service weapon striking the violator’s left rear C-Pillar. After an internal investigation with a review of Deputy Williams’ in- car video and body camera it was determined that Deputy Williams put himself in a position by opening the driver’s door and trying to extract the violator without first making sure the vehicle was not in gear and the engine was off. Furthermore, review of the video did not show Deputy Williams to be dragged by the violator’s vehicle and that he was no longer in any imminent danger of great bodily harm or death. The video goes on to show Deputy Williams standing in the roadway and drawing his service weapon and taking careful aim and firing a single shot at the vehicle.”
“Deputy Williams was terminated from the Aiken County Sheriff’s Office for violating Aiken County Sheriff’s Office Use of Force Policy 500 that states deputies are authorized to use deadly force only when they reasonably believe that the action is in defense of human life, including the deputy’s own life or in in defense of any person in imminent danger of serious physical injury or death,” the statement continued. “The policy also states that a deputy will not fire their weapon at or from a moving vehicle without due regard for the safety of the general public. Also in section B, Parameters for use of Deadly Force relating to vehicles. ‘Deputies should avoid intentionally placing themselves in and around a vehicle in a manner that would create a situation increasing the danger to the deputy or other person.’ After the review of the video from Deputy Williams’ in car video and his own accounts of the incident showed that his accounts and actions were inconsistent with that of the video footage.”
Williams was employed with the Aiken County department from December 17, 2021 until March 8, 2023. Before that he was employed by two sheriff’s departments in Georgia – Burke County and Richland County.
As with anyone accused of committing any crime, Williams is considered innocent until proven guilty by our criminal justice system. His case will be prosecuted by the S.C. second circuit solicitor’s office.
Here is the release from SLED which contained a copy of the arrest warrants …
THE WARRANTS …
ABOUT THE AUTHOR …
Callie Lyons is a journalist, researcher, and author whose investigative work can be found in media outlets, publications, and documentaries all over the world – most recently in the Parisian newspaper Le Monde and a German documentary for ProSieben. Lyons also appears in Citizen Sleuth – a 2023 documentary exploring the genre of true crime.
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