Man shot by deputies in York County sues sheriff’s office

·6 min read

A Rock Hill man who was shot by deputies and survived is now suing the York County Sheriff’s Office.

On May 7, 2021, deputies shot Trevor Mullinax multiple times while responding to a welfare check at a home off Highway 324. Chopper 9 Skyzoom was overhead while investigators were at the scene and could see a Ford F-150 riddled with bullet holes.

In the lawsuit, Mullinax said he was shot at nearly 50 times while sitting in his truck contemplating suicide. He said nine of those bullets hit him, including one that hit him in the back of his head. Mullinax was facing a burglary warrant.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Deputies shoot armed man in York County, investigators say

New dash cam video shows the moment deputies pulled up. Mullinax’s mom, Tammy Beason, was at the driver’s side of the truck, which is where she had been talking to him for three hours. Video shows deputies firing at Mullinax within moments of their arrival.

Other family members called 911 and Channel 9 was able to obtain a recording of that call from Mullinax’s attorneys.

“Saying his son would be better off without him, saying there’s no point, and now he’s locked himself in his truck with a knife,” the caller said. “And I say that because I don’t want him to hop out and get shot, but I don’t know if that’s his plan.”

>> You are not alone. If you or a loved one needs help, click here for a county-by-county guide to mental health resources in our area.

In the video, Mullinax’s mother jumps out of the way as the shots are being fired. She told the media on Tuesday that she never imagined being shot at by the people she thought were going to protect her son.

Mullinax was flown to a hospital in Charlotte for his injuries. No deputies were hurt in the shooting.

“They came out there like gunslingers,” the family’s attorney said Tuesday. “His hands were up. He was shot in his hands.”

When the shooting first happened, deputies said Mullinax had a gun in his truck. Attorneys for Mullinax said he had a hunting shotgun, but said he never showed it or threatened to use it. Charges for pointing and possessing a firearm are still pending against him.

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A South Carolina Law Enforcement Division investigation into the shooting did not result in criminal charges against the officers. Attorneys for the family say they haven’t gotten a response on whether any of the deputies were held accountable for the shooting.

“May is Mental Health Awareness Month,” Mullinax said. “I hate that I have to be the face of it.”

The lawsuit accuses York County and the sheriff’s office of gross negligence. The suit says deputies didn’t do enough to de-escalate the situation.

Mullinax is suing for emotional, physical, and legal anguish.

Channel 9 reached out to the YCSO for a comment on the lawsuit, and a spokesperson said on Tuesday that the sheriff’s office hadn’t been served with the lawsuit yet.

The sheriff’s office told Channel 9 that “the matter was investigated independently by the S.C. State Law Enforcement Division and all of the deputies involved were cleared of any wrongdoing.”

York County Sheriff Kevin Tolson sent the following statement to Channel 9 on Tuesday: “I tell all of my deputies that their goal is to serve the citizens of York County and then to go home safely to their families. Mr. Mullinax chose to put these men in danger by pulling a shotgun. These deputies responded appropriately to the threat as they were trained to do. Had Mr. Mullinax made different choices that day, deputies would not have been required to use force. Our ultimate goal is to ensure the safety of the public and our deputies. Regardless of the outcome of this lawsuit, we want to reassure our residents that we will continue to provide high quality and professional law enforcement service.”

According to the sheriff’s office, three of the four deputies involved in the incident are still on the job, and the fourth voluntarily left to take another job.

Sheriff’s office responds

On Wednesday, York County Sheriff Kevin Tolson defended his deputies’ actions. He said he wouldn’t usually speak about pending litigation, but he wanted to share what came out of the state investigation into the shooting. He said that additional information explains why his officers fired their weapons.

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“Ms. Beasley stated in her interview with SLED that Trever ‘reached and grabbed the shotgun and pulled it up and that’s when they saw it and started shooting,’” Tolson said. “The deputies say they saw Mullinax with a firearm in his hand and all four deputies discharged their department issued firearms.

“He informed medical personnel that he wanted to shoot himself, but he wanted to have police do it so he grabbed the gun when deputies arrived,” Tolson added.

Tolson said his office has gotten threats and hate messages since news of the lawsuit came out.

The sheriff highlighted some mental health statistics, saying from 2018 to 2022, the York County Sheriff’s Office has responded to 395 suicides or attempted suicides. In that same time frame, he said his deputies have conducted 1,256 well being checks.

Tolson said York County is experiencing a mental health crisis and it should not fall to police officers to be the first line of response to people in need. He said the public should ask the state for more mental health resources.

A call for change

Mullinax spoke tearfully on Tuesday, which was about two years after the shooting.

“If it helps one person, even one single person, not have to go through what me and my family have, I’m OK,” he said.

In the body camera video and dispatch calls, there appears to be confusion. The dispatcher relays the information about Mullinax being suicidal, but then the deputy who arrives at the home is focused on the outstanding warrant and is seemingly unaware Mullinax was there and in distress.

ALSO READ: Officers won’t face charges in deadly shootout in south Charlotte, DA says

“If he shows back up, don’t tell him you called us, he’s got to go to jail,” a deputy says in the video.

Minutes later, deputies drove up on Mullinax’s truck and opened fire. Beason said she thought her son had died.

“Never in my life have I ever ever imagined that I would be put in danger by someone in the law enforcement,” she said.

Beason was then handcuffed.

“All we just wanted to get some help for my son,” she said.

She said everything changed for her after the shooting.

“They destroyed everything I believed in that day,” she said.

“I want to shed a light on this. No mother should have to go through this,” she said. “No mother should have to think for six hours their child was brutally murdered in front of them.”

She said she sees law enforcement in a different light now.

“Every time I pass a deputy in this community, I wonder if they are one of the ones who almost killed me that day -- who almost killed my son,” she said.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

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