Mistaking a walking cane for a shotgun, a South Carolina sheriff’s deputy shot a 70-year-old man during a nighttime traffic stop last month and then quickly began sobbing when he realized what had happened, according to audio and video from his cruiser’s dash camera released Wednesday.
York County Sheriff’s Deputy Terrance Knox pulled over a pickup truck with an expired license plate around 7:30 p.m. Feb. 25.
On the tape, Bobby Dean Canipe, 70, is seen coming out of the truck unprompted and reaching into the truck bed despite pleas from Knox: “Sir! Sir! Whoa whoa! Eh eh!” Canipe grabs a long, thin object, with one end pointing in the direction of the deputy.
Knox fires what sounds like about six shots, causing Canipe to gently kneel down. Canipe had grabbed only his cane, and in the video he uses it as support as he goes to the ground.
Knox rushes to Canipe and apologizes. Canipe says he’ll be all right. A woman who comes out from the passenger seat repeatedly says, “Please, Lord, help us,” as the deputy cares for Canipe.
A few minutes later, when other deputies arrive, one of the them pulls Knox to the other side of the truck and consoles him. “You did what you had to do. Calm down, calm down,” he tells a crying Knox. A sheriff's department attorney described Knox's emotion at the scene as "anguish."
The department said the next day that Canipe, who was wounded in his stomach, was expected to recover.
Canipe, who is from North Carolina, eventually left the hospital, and efforts by media to reach him have been unsuccessful. The department has not provided an update on his condition.
At a news conference posted online Wednesday, York County Sheriff Bruce Bryant defended his deputy’s use of force. The department said it was releasing the video because of "demoralizing" public outcry over the shooting.
“This officer felt at the time he pulled the trigger that his life was in danger, and I stand behind this officer,” Bryant said. "These officers must act to protect their own safety.... Think about what they are seeing."
Bryant told the media that he would push for state and federal laws requiring drivers to receive some education on what to do when pulled over.
“You do not exit your vehicle and go meet the police officer,” Bryant said. "You do no do that. There's no law against it -- you can -- but the police officer is going to give you some strict orders."
State authorities are investigating the shooting, and a local prosecutor will decide whether to charge Knox with "objectively unreasonable use of force." The deputy remained on paid administrative leave pending the conclusion of the investigation.