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Witnesses say Beaufort police were not at fault in fatal shooting

Amy Cox and her 20-year-old son, Brian Pepin, say a S.C. Law Enforcement Division investigation into a fatal shooting near their Southside Boulevard home will confirm what they already know --that two Beaufort police officers did nothing wrong the night of May 27.

At about 11:45 p.m. , Pepin and Cox heard what sounded like three gunshots near their home, which is almost directly across from the entrance to Spanish Trace apartments.

Authorities say Anthony Bernard Bass, 24, opened fire on two officers as they approached to question him about a vandalism complaint they were investigating in the apartment complex, where he lived. The officers returned fire as Bass ran from the apartment complex onto Southside Boulevard, where Pepin spotted Bass as the witness called 911 to report the gunshots.

"I was on the back porch, and he came running across the street, jumped over the ditch and when he saw me, he aimed his gun at me," Pepin said. "I saw his hand raise up and he started shooting. He fired about three rounds at me. I just hit the ground and ran back inside the house and screamed at everyone to get down. I couldn't see what kind of gun it was, but the cops told me later that it was semiautomatic."

Pepin, Cox and the woman's other three children huddled in an interior hallway of the home as more shots rang out.

It wasn't until the family saw the reflection of flashing blue lights in the window that they knew they were safe, Cox said.

"We didn't know that that last set of shots was the cops," Cox said. "When we saw the blue lights, we came out and took a peek through the window. There were police cars everywhere."

When he went outside, Pepin said he saw Bass' body face-down in the neighbor's yard surrounded by police officers.

"It looks like they shot him as he climbed over the fence," Pepin said. "I couldn't get a good look at his face because there were so many cops around the body, but I could tell they shot him in head and in the back. There was blood everywhere."

Bass was pronounced dead at the scene, according to the Beaufort County Coroner's Office.

Neither officer was injured. Both are on administrative leave while the incident is investigated by the S.C. Law Enforcement Division, which investigates all shootings involving South Carolina police officers. Pepin and Cox were both interviewed by SLED investigators that night.

Beaufort Police Chief Matt Clancy and a SLED spokeswoman have declined to release the officers'names, citing the state agency's investigation.

Authorities also have declined to say whether a gun was found on or near Bass' body, how many shots were fired or how many times Bass was shot.

Cox said there is little doubt in her mind what the SLED investigation will reveal.

"We know more than most people know about what happened," Cox said. "(The officers) protected us. They did the right thing."

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