Officer cleared in Jan. 21 officer-involved shooting with suspect

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – New video released Wednesday afternoon provides insight into a shooting between a Charleston officer and a man who was suspected of armed robberies in the West Ashley area.

The Charleston Police Department (CPD) received information from a citizen that an individual suspected of those crimes was seen inside a Walgreens on Old Towne Road on the evening of January 21.

Lt. Anthony Gibson said several of the armed robberies had occurred near the business over the past few months. As such, officers were already on the lookout for an unidentified suspect.

Officers arrived on scene within minutes and began setting up a perimeter to contain and contact the suspect. One of those officers, Senior Police Officer Taylor Schwartz, observed the suspect walking through the parking lot and then running toward the rear of the building.

SPO Schwartz followed the suspect in his patrol vehicle before the two engaged in a foot chase, heading toward an office building located on Carriage Lane. The suspect, later identified as 43-year-old Christopher Leon Hampton, was ordered several times to get on the ground but disobeyed commands and kept running, according to police.

“As the pursuit reached the office building sidewalk, Officer Schwartz – aware that Mr. Hampton might be armed and extremely dangerous – observed Mr. Hampton grabbing at the waistband of his pants as he fled,” explained Lt. Gibson.

The officer saw Hampton drop a handgun on the ground and bend over to pick it up. Believing he posed a serious threat, and that he continued to disobey orders, Schwartz fired at the suspect who returned fire. Hampton then ran from the scene.

SPO Schwartz was not struck by the suspect’s gunfire; however, he did suffer a hand injury when he dove out of the way to avoid being hit.

Hampton was later found hiding near a business on Ashley River Road where he was arrested without further incident. He had suffered a gunshot wound to his arm and was taken to a local hospital for treatment.

Hampton is a convicted felon and prohibited from owning or carrying a firearm. He was charged by the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED) with one count of attempted murder and one count of possession of a weapon during the commission of a violent crime.

It was determined through the investigation that Hampton was not involved in the past West Ashley armed robberies.

The Ninth Circuit Solicitor’s Office cleared SPO Schwartz in the shooting saying he reasonably believed Hampton posed a threat to him or any innocent bystanders who could have been in the area.

“The events leading to the shooting show that Officer Schwartz acted in good faith while investigating a nearby armed robbery. While Hampton has been cleared of the armed robbery, Officer Schwartz acted appropriately in pursuing Hampton as a suspect,” the solicitor’s office wrote.

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Author: Tim Renaud