Beaufort Police officers cleared after solicitor rules shooting victim committed suicide

Wounded and cornered behind an air-conditioning unit, a 24-year-old Georgia man turned his gun on himself during a shoot-out with two Beaufort police officers in May, according to 14th Circuit Solicitor Duffie Stone.

Stone cleared officers Matthew Rausch and Justin Mahan of any wrongdoing Tuesday in the May 27 shooting death of Anthony Bernard Bass of Cordele, Ga., after reviewing crime-scene photographs, findings from an S.C. Law Enforcement Division investigation and other evidence.

Investigators say Bass opened fire on Rausch and Mahan with a Cobray M-11 9 mm semi-automatic pistol as the officers approached to question him about a vandalism complaint they were investigating in the Spanish Trace apartment complex.

The officers returned fire and shot Bass six times as they chased him down the street into a nearby yard where Bass shot himself in the head, according to S. Erin Pernell, director of medical and forensic autopsy at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston. Pernell was the pathologist assigned to the case.

Bass was found shot in the head, left chest, left shoulder, left wrist and forearm area, lower back, and twice in the right thigh, according to Beaufort County Coroner Ed Allen.

Stone said the gunshot wounds inflicted by the two officers likely would not have killed Bass, and his death was ruled a suicide.

Janice Sales, Bass' mother, learned of Stone's announcement Tuesday evening.

"I'm still going to trust in the good Lord that justice will be served for my son," Sales said from her Georgia home. She declined to comment further.

After the shooting, the officers were placed on administrative leave by Beaufort Police Chief Matt Clancy, pending the outcome of the investigation.

Clancy said he has always believed the two officers would be cleared and added that Rausch was anxious to return to duty.

"From everything that we saw at the scene initially, we were confident this is the way it would turn out," Clancy said. "(Rausch) is ready to get back to work and get scheduled. He's been doing some (administrative) duties, but that's not really what he signed up for."

Rausch joined the department in July 2008, according to department records.

Mahan, who joined the department in May 2007, resigned Friday to take a civilian job in his native Texas, Clancy said.

Clancy said Mahan told department officials the shooting did not factor into his decision to resign.