After a series of requests earlier this week from The Island Packet and The Beaufort Gazette, the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office has released portions of its General Orders Manual relating to traffic stops, vehicle pursuits and the use of force.
The requests from the newspaper came after an incident Dec. 9 when a traffic stop at the Tanger Outlets 2 in greater Bluffton ended in Sgt. Raymond Heroux being dragged by a car and the shooting of Akeem Jenkins, the driver of that vehicle.
Both the S.C. Law Enforcement Division and the Sheriff’s Office of Professional Responsibility are investigating the incident.
While a Sheriff’s Office news release Thursday said the stop was initiated because of an “unlawful lane change,” the General Order Manual documents — which are meant to establish guidelines for deputy conduct — offer few details on procedures that could prove relevant to Jenkins’ shooting.
Sections of the manual that deal with directives that could be specifically related to the Dec. 9 incident have been redacted in the copy provided to the media and the public by the Sheriff’s Office.
Procedures relevant to the traffic stop and its aftermath “were reviewed for the presence of sensitive law enforcement tactics used by (deputies) on traffic stops. After a thorough review, a few select areas were redacted appropriately,” the Sheriff’s Office release said.
The Beaufort Police Department provided unredacted sections of its General Orders Manual, as did the Bluffton Police Department with information from its Standard Operating Procedure documents. And the S.C. Highway Patrol not only provided relevant portions of its Manual of Operations, but also related policy directives guiding officer conduct during traffic stops.
“Releasing details at this time on the suspicious activity of (Jenkins) and events leading up to the officer-involved shooting could impact the credibility of witnesses and impede the active SLED investigation (or the Office of Professional Responsibility’s) review of policies and procedures,” according to the Sheriff’s Office release.
In the release, Sheriff P.J. Tanner thanked county residents “for their continued patience during this investigation” and said the agency “will not prematurely release information that could potentially compromise the integrity of the SLED investigation (and the Office of Professional Responsibility) policies and procedures review.”
More detailed information may be provided “when (it is) fully vetted as factual and not deemed sensitive to the ongoing investigation,” Thursday’s release said.
As a result of the shooting, Jenkins was injured and flown to Memorial University Medical Center in Savannah after EMS found at least 10 grams of cocaine on his person — enough to charge him with a felony, according to the Sheriff’s Office.
He will be charged and extradited to Beaufort County upon his release. Heroux was treated for injuries and released from the hospital the same day.