Beaufort Police Chief Matt Clancy should release the names of two officers placed on administrative leave more than a week ago after fatally wounding a Georgia man during a shoot-out on Southside Boulevard, said Bill Rogers, executive director of the S.C. Press Association.
Clancy has refused to release the names of the two officers, citing an ongoing S.C. Law Enforcement Division investigation of the May 27 shooting, in which 24-year-old Anthony Bernard Bass of Cordele, Ga. was killed. SLED investigates all shootings involving police officers, and a spokeswoman for the agency referred questions about the officers' identities to Beaufort Police.
Rogers said the department has no legal right to withhold the names.
"Policemen are public officials in South Carolina, and their names should be released," Rogers said. "There is no legitimate reason to withhold their names unless they are undercover officers. This just casts doubt over police decision-making. The public has a right to know this information."
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The Beaufort Gazette and The Island Packet filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the police department Thursday, seeking the officers' names, employment histories and copies of all incident reports related to the shooting.
City officials must respond to the request in writing within 15 business days or it will be considered automatically approved, according to state law.
Authorities say Bass opened fire on two officers as they approached to question him about a vandalism complaint they were investigating in Spanish Trace apartments, where he lived. The officers returned fire as they chased Bass down the street into a nearby yard. Bass was pronounced dead at the scene, according to the Beaufort County Coroner's Office.
Neither officer was injured in the shooting.
Authorities have refused to say whether a gun was found on or near Bass' body. Clancy and a SLED spokeswoman also have declined to say how many shots were fired and how many times Bass was shot.