COLUMBIA, S.C. - A 15-year-old South Carolina girl shot to death by police after a store robbery was holding a BB gun that looked like a 9 mm pistol, authorities said yesterday, calling the officers' actions justified. The state said it wouldn't bring charges against the men.
Yvette Williams was shot to death by police last week, minutes after authorities say she robbed a grocery store in Rock Hill, about 25 miles south of Charlotte, N.C. Police have said two officers fired on the teen after she pointed a weapon at them and refused to drop it.
Solicitor Kevin Brackett reviewed video of the shooting taken from one of the officer's police cruisers, and he said there's no question the officers thought Williams was pointing a real gun at them.
"Nobody in their right mind would look at that and think, 'Oh, it might be a toy,' " said Brackett, prosecutor for the county surrounding Rock Hill and a neighboring county. "They had no choice."
Brackett's findings will be part of a report on the shooting being prepared by the State Law Enforcement Division, which is conducting the investigation into the shooting. Officers Carlos Culbreath and Claude McCarley have been placed on paid leave since the shooting.
Brackett said the officers fired about a dozen shots at the teen in three clusters: one after she initially pointed the weapon at them; another after she had hit the ground but sat up, still clutching the BB gun; and another after she had dropped the weapon but appeared to be trying to roll over on the ground and reach it with her left hand.
She was hit with three bullets, he said.
As soon as Williams stopped moving, Brackett said one of the officers moved toward her to retrieve the weapon. But as soon as Culbreath picked up the gun, Brackett said it's obvious from the tape that the officer knew he was not holding a real handgun.
"You hear him start to whimper," Brackett said, again referencing the dash-cam video. "You could see from his reaction on the video tape."