Though it has been nearly a year since South Carolina Law Enforcement Division and the 14th Circuit Solicitor’s Office opened an investigation into the death of a mentally ill Seabrook man who died in Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office custody, little information has been released, leaving both the man’s family and the public in the dark.
Specifically not known are the man’s official cause of death, the circumstances that led to the man’s death or whether any law enforcement officers or other first responders will be charged as a result.
Trey Pringle, 24, died Feb. 20, 2018, of cardiac arrest three days after his family called 911 for help in controlling him.
Pringle was stunned three times with a Taser and restrained by Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office deputies and Burton Fire District firefighters.
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His death appears to have been ruled a homicide by asphyxiation, according to a list provided by the Beaufort County Coroner’s Office in response to a Freedom of Information Act request from The Island Packet and The Beaufort Gazette for all county homicides in 2018.
Pringle was not named on the list, however his date of death as well as the location of his death were.
Pringle’s family has declined to comment publicly until the investigation is released.
Four months after Pringle’s death, an attorney for the family said they are frustrated with the lack of information and with the slow pace of the investigation but they are not “jumping to conclusions.”
For months, the solicitor’s office has declined to comment, citing the ongoing investigation.
The Island Packet and The Beaufort Gazette requested comment Monday from Solicitor Duffie Stone about why the investigation has taken nearly a year to complete.
That request went unanswered.
Late Wednesday, Stone’s office announced a press conference scheduled for 3 p.m. Thursday to discuss the Pringle case.
Stone’s office has not said whether the investigation will be released at the conference.
In the meantime, members of the community have continued to question the length of time it is taking to get answers about Pringle’s death.
Dennis Smith, who has lived near Pringle for more than 20 years, said that while he didn’t know Pringle personally, he heard about what happened that night.
The delays from SLED and Stone’s office inevitably lead to public mistrust, Smith said Wednesday.
“It makes people angry because they aren’t getting justice,” he said. “People are getting away with stuff and hiding it.”
It is easy to believe the office is trying to hide “foul” stuff, Smith said.
Demetrius Smalls grew up in the same neighborhood as Pringle.
The two were a few years apart.
He remembers Pringle as a “hype type” growing up. Yet in adulthood Pringle was working toward “doing something in life” through rapping.
“His death hits home,” Smalls said. “It could happen to any of us.”
Pringle was combative with first responders upon arrival, according to a sheriff’s office report from February 2018.
He was found sitting next to a broken television and was bleeding “everywhere.” He refused to allow first responders to treat his injuries, the report said.
EMS told deputies that Pringle had a history of mental health problems and other medical issues and that he needed to be transported to a hospital because of blood loss.
During a struggle, Pringle struck a deputy in the face multiple times and kicked him in the knee as the officer tried to handcuff him. He also struck a second deputy.
After the first Taser strike, Pringle swung a piece of broken glass as a weapon, the report said.
He was Tased two more times as the struggle continued.
A “drive stun” method was used the third time. It was placed directly against the back of Pringle’s leg, the report said.
A firefighter helped to hold Pringle as he continue to struggle after being handcuffed.
Pringle went into cardiac arrest as medical personnel began to treat him. He died at Beaufort Memorial Hospital.