Crime & Courts

Murder Rap: South Carolina Police Officer Charged In Chick-fil-A Shooting

Investigation “active and ongoing …”

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The South Carolina State Law Enforcement Division (SLED) has announced charges against former Summerville, S.C. police officer Anthony DeLustro in connection with the fatal shooting of 39-year-old Michael O’Neal following an altercation in a fast food drive-thru lane last month.

“A reasonable person could not have reasonably believed that the victim posted a threat of imminent danger of death or serious bodily injury to others because the victim was unarmed, walked away from the alterction and attempted to leave in his vehicle,” a probable cause affidavit accompanying the warrant for DeLustro’s arrest on a murder charge noted. “(DeLustro)’s claims do not meet the elements of self-defense.”

Conversely, O’Neal “did have a right to act in self-defense,” according to the affidavit.

The altercation in question unfolded on Wednesday, March 20, 2024, in broad daylight – at around 1:00 p.m. – in the parking lot of the Chick-fil-A restaurant at 1312 N. Main St. in Summerville, S.C. It ended with O’Neal being pronounced dead at the scene from a single gunshot fired by DeLustro – who was not on duty at the time.

DeLustro sustained injuries during the altercation, although they were not deemed life-threatening.

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Summerville police chief Doug Wright asked SLED to lead the investigation, citing the need for transparency and impartiality. Upon learning DeLustro was being charged with murder, Wright terminated him from his employment with the city.

“This tragedy has devastated two families and we offer our deepest sympathies to both,” Wright noted in a statement posted to social media.

While DeLustro has been formally charged with murder, SLED’s release noted the investigation into the shooting was “active and ongoing.”

According to the affidavit, witnesses identified DeLustro as “the primary aggressor” in the altercation – which began with verbal taunts and quickly escalated into “punches and kicks.” During the melee, DeLustro allegedly yelled “come on you fucking faggot” at O’Neal, according to the affidavit.

“At some point during the scuffle, (DeLustro) told the victim he was under arrest,” the affidavit continued. “(DeLustro) also removed his Summerville police department law enforcement credentials from the back pocket of his pants and briefly presented them before they fell to the ground during the struggle.”

DeLustro’s handgun – a Springfield Armory XD semi-automatic pistol – also fell from his holster during the scuffle and came to rest behind his vehicle, according to police.

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Anthony DeLustro (Berkeley County)

“As the fight continued, the victim disengaged, and an eyewitness heard the victim say he wanted to leave,” the affidavit continued. “Evidence showed that the victim then disengaged and retreated from the physical altercation.”

He didn’t get far …

“An eyewitness, while restraining (DeLustro), heard him tell the victim he would shoot (him) if he left,” the affidavit noted. “(DeLustro) broke free from the bystander(s) holding him, ran to the rear of his vehicle, and picked up his handgun from the pavement.”

Upon retrieving his weapon, DeLustro entered O’Neal’s vehicle – a Hyundai Genesis – using the front passenger side door. At this point, O’Neal yelled at him to “get out of my car.”

“As the victim began to drive away, DeLustro, while still partially seated in the passenger seat of the victim’s vehicle, fired a single shot from his handgun,” the affidavit noted.

That shot struck and killed O’Neal …

The investigation determined DeLustro’s wife – 64-year-old Pilar DeLustro – attempted to physically restrain O’Neal twice during the melee – once during the scuffle and a second time when he attempted to disengage and leave the scene. As of this writing, no charges have been filed against her, however.

Delustro’s checkered law enforcement career began in December 1980 with the New York Police Department (NYPD)’s Transit Bureau District 33. During his time with NYPD, three complaints were filed against him. In January 1982, an allegation of use of force was determined to be unsubstantiated. In August 1990, a second allegation of use of force was determined unfounded. A third complaint in 2002 alleging abuse of authority regarding the search of a vehicle resulted in Delustro’s resignation.

According to his history (.pdf), Delustro moved to South Carolina in 2003 and took a job with the public safety office at Trident Tech College. He was employed by the Summerville police department from December 2007 – November 2009, the College of Charleston’s public safety office from December 2009 – June 2011, and the Dorchester County sheriff’s office from July 2011 – August 2013.

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After a gap in his law enforcement career of about six and a half years, Deluca was commissioned by SLED to work for the public safety office at The Citadel from February 3, 2020 – January 24, 2023. During his employment with the Citadel, in May 2022, Deluca was demoted and reclassified for failing to meet proficiency requirements. From there, he returned to the Summerville police department – beginning his latest stint with them on January 9, 2023.

The family of Michael O’Neal has been vocal about their pursuit of justice, expressing their trust in the investigative process while awaiting the outcome of SLED’s thorough investigation.

“As of this writing, there are many unanswered questions, and Michael’s family is respectfully waiting for SLED to perform a thorough investigation, which takes time,” family members wrote on a GoFundMe page established to raise money for O’Neal’s funeral. “Michael’s father was an officer with Winston-Salem police for over 30 years. This is a family that has a great deal of respect for law enforcement in general, yet is fully aware that no profession is free of bad actors. We remain optimistic that the SLED detectives will find the truth and bring about justice.”

As the judicial process unfolds, the tragic incident has deeply affected two families, prompting condolences and calls for accountability. The decision to charge DeLustro with murder marks a significant development in the case, shedding light on the complexities and consequences of law enforcement actions.

As with anyone accused of committing any crime, DeLustro is considered innocent until proven guilty by our criminal justice system – or until such time as he may wish to enter some form of allocution in connection with a plea agreement with prosecutors related to any of the charges filed against him.

DeLustro was booked at the Berkeley County detention center. His case will be prosecuted by the office of S.C. ninth circuit solicitor Scarlett Wilson.

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THE RELEASE …

(SLED)

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR …

Callie Lyons (Provided)

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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