Firefighter linked to case involving death of Trey Pringle
By Mindy Lucas
An area firefighter accused of using a chokehold on a Seabrook man who died after an altercation with authorities in 2018, is now wanted on charges of soliciting sex from a 13-year-old girl, officials say.
The Beaufort Police Department has taken out warrants for Brandon Cory Thomsen, 46, of Beaufort.
The warrants include one count of criminal solicitation of a minor and one count of disseminating obscene material to a person under 18, according to the department’s spokesman Capt. George Erdel.
Thomsen is a firefighter with the Burton Fire District.
As of press time on Tuesday, his whereabouts were unknown and no arrests had been made, Erdel said.
The mother of the 13-year-old contacted police on Nov. 28 after she discovered her daughter had received illicit messages from Thomsen via Snapchat, according to a redacted police report obtained by The Island News.
Snapchat is a popular mobile app that allows users to share photos or send messages that are available for a short time only before becoming inaccessible.
Described as a “good family friend” in the report, Thomsen had asked to add the 13-year-old to his Snapchat a few days before the incident. He then sent the girl illicit song lyrics.
On Friday, Nov. 27, Thomsen contacted the 13-year-old asking her to “invite a friend” and that he was having a “get together” at his residence. He also sent her explicit messages of a sexual nature, according to the report.
The 13-year-old became “extremely uncomfortable” and asked why he was contacting her. Thomsen asked that she not divulge the conversation.
The next morning, the 13-year-old told her mother she wanted to talk to her and that “something bad had happened.” When confronted by the family via text message, Thomsen said, “Yeah, I’m sorry, totally wrong person,” according to the report.
Screenshots were taken of the messages and the mother contacted the police.
Prior to this recent incident, Thomsen was accused of employing a chokehold in an incident that led to the death of 24-year-old Trey Pringle, according to news reports from the time.
The incident began on Feb. 17, 2018 when Pringle’s family called 911. Pringle, who had a documented history of mental illness, had smashed a TV and cut himself. The Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office, Burton Fire District and Beaufort County EMS responded to the call for help.
Pringle was calm when first responders initially arrived on the scene, but when deputies attempted to restrain him he became agitated, according to news reports.
According to a lawsuit filed by the family against Thomsen, the firefighter employed a headlock/chokehold “without authorization or training.”
Pringle was also Tased a total of five times during the altercation, reports say. Pringle stopped breathing and flat lined at which point restraints were removed and EMS technicians performed CPR, but Pringle was left unconscious and in cardiac arrest.
He died three days later in the hospital.
An autopsy determined that he had died during “restraint in a prone position with chest compression.”
Since then, Pringle’s death has been brought up in various protests and on social media demanding “Justice for Trey” though no charges have been brought relating to the incident.
On Thursday, Dec. 3, after the Burton Fire District was made aware of warrants for Thomsen’s arrest, Thomsen was placed on immediate suspension, according to a statement from the fire district.
“While this is an ongoing investigation, because of our position of public trust, the Burton Fire District takes these charges very seriously, and upon notification of the warrants, Brandon Thomsen was placed on immediate suspension,” the statement read.
Thomsen has not been on duty since Aug. 20, the statement also indicated, though no reason has been given for why he has not been working since then.
After contacting the Beaufort law firm of Moss, Kuhn, & Fleming, who handles general matters for the fire district, the firm referred The Island News to Thomsen’s Columbia attorney, Michael Burchstead with Collins & Lacy.
In a text response, Burchstead stated, “We are unable to comment on pending litigation.”
Anyone with information as to Thomsen’s whereabouts should contact Sgt. Stephanie Karafa at 843-322-7914.