By MINDY LUCAS
A trooper with the S.C. Highway Patrol has been fired after discharging his service weapon during an October traffic stop near Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, officials say.
Trooper J.W. Ward was fired for “improper conduct/conduct unbecoming of a state employee,” according to statement from Capt. Kelley Hughes with the S.C. Department of Public Safety.
The traffic stop occurred around 8:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 1, on U.S. Highway 21 near the air station. Ward attempted to pull over the driver of a car that disregarded a traffic signal. That driver was later identified as Robert Lamont Wilson, 32, of St. Helena Island.
After Wilson failed to stop, Ward pursued him. Wilson then lost control of his car. As Ward approached the vehicle, he discharged his department-issued firearm, according to a previous news release.
Wilson again fled, and Ward pursued him into Colleton County where he was eventually stopped after troopers who joined the pursuit performed traffic maneuvers designed to stop a fleeing vehicle.
The maneuvers resulted in a collision, which was investigated by the Dorchester County Sheriff’s Office. There were no injuries involved in the incident.
Wilson was arrested and charged with disregarding a traffic control device, failure to stop for a blue light, driving with an expired license and operating a vehicle without insurance, according to the release.
S.C. Law Enforcement Division and the department of public safety’s Office of Professional Responsibility investigated the incident to see if Ward’s firing his gun met department-protocols. Ward was placed on suspension without pay during the investigation, according to the statement.
The investigation determined that the suspect in the case did not pose an immediate threat to Ward’s safety or the safety of others, and Ward’s actions were not in line with his training or the department’s “Emergency Response/Vehicle and Foot Pursuit” policy, according to the statement.
Ward’s employment was terminated on Nov. 8. He had worked for the Highway Patrol since 2017, according to the statement.