No criminal charges will be brought in connection with the death of Trey Pringle of Seabrook, who died nearly a year ago after a confrontation with police, 14th Circuit Solicitor Duffie Stone said during a news conference Thursday.
“I do not believe that the officers or medical personal intended to harm Trey Pringle,” Stone said. “They were trying to protect him and the others around him.”
A statement from Pringle’s mother’s attorney — Shannon M. Chandler — was released following the news conference.
“While we do not agree with Solicitor Stone’s decision to decline to prosecute the officers involved in Trey’s death, we understand that it is unusual for law enforcement to be prosecuted when a death occurs during the course of officers carrying out their duties.”
Pringle, 24, died three days after his family called the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office for help in controlling him. Pringle had a history of mental health issues and had injured himself during a episode in which he smashed a TV.
Stone said while a medical determination says Pringle died as the result of homicide, an investigation by SLED and his office found no criminal intent. Stone said the term “homicide” was a medical one rather than a legal one.
An autopsy conducted at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston determined Pringle died during “restraint in a prone position with chest compression,” Stone said.
Stone said that through discussions with the medical examiner he learned that a “perfect storm” of circumstances lead to Pringle’s death.
“His mania, the excitement of the situation, his combative behavior all likely caused Pringle to experience an elevated heart rate,” Stone said. “This elevated heart rate required a need for additional oxygen.”
Pringle’s prior asthmatic condition also reduced his oxygen level, Stone said.
“The restraint face down and chest compression all caused a reduction in Pringle’s ability to get oxygen,” Stone said. “All of this combined to cause his death.”
A summary of the investigation was released Thursday. Stone said the full report will be released once it has been redacted.
The report shows that Pringle was Tased a total of five times, with three of them “drive stuns” in which the Taser was placed directly against the back of Pringle’s leg. It was previously believed from police records that Pringle was Tased three times.
Stone said Pringle continued to struggle. Deputies and a firefighter kept him on the ground until other deputies arrived.
“I believe it was their only option,” Stone said of the use of the Taser. “I do not believe they had a choice but to deploy their Tasers.”
Pringle’s history of mental illness included hospitalizations, Stone said. He said that at times Pringle felt demons were after him.
On Feb. 17, 2018, Pringle began “exhibiting unusual behavior” while watching television with family, Stone said.
“He got up, ran out of the house through the woods and came back into the house,” Stone said. “He started beating on the television and rubbing his hands on it.”
Some witnesses said he had a “blank stare”, Stone said.
Family couldn’t get Pringle, who cut himself in the process, to show them where he was bleeding. They called 911 to “prevent him from hurting himself or others,” Stone said.
Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office Deputies Dario Sosa and Daniel Boone arrived on the scene about 6:22 p.m.
Pringle was sitting on the floor with the broken television and appeared to be bleeding, Stone said. He would not respond to deputies questions or requests.
Beaufort County EMS and Burton Fire District also responded to help with the call.
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.
Pringle barricaded himself in a room out of sight. Deputy Sosa pulled his service weapon , while Deputy Boone pulled his Taser.
Both weapons were re-holstered when Pringle left the room.
He continued to ignore deputies commands, Stone said. The first Tasing came when he attempted to barricade himself a second time.
Pringle later sat on the floor and gave deputies his hands, Stone said. But he fought them as they attempted to handcuff him.
Pringle swung a“large piece of glass” at deputies, Stone said.
Deputies and Pringle fell to the ground after he was Tased a second time, Stone said. Firefighter Brandon Thomsen helped deputies control Pringle, Stone said.
The three “drive stuns” were given at this time.
Pringle went into cardiac arrest as medical personnel began to treat him. He died three days later at Beaufort Memorial Hospital.
Stone said the investigation of the case followed “standard procedure.” SLED was the primary investigative agency and the Solicitor’s Office assisted with legal advice and followup interviews, he said.
The investigation included the review of more than 30 subject interviews, 33 hours of audio and dash cam footage, 185 medical records and 500 photographs.
Stone said most investigations of this type average 379 days.
“It is the most important thing that we get it right,” Stone said. “It is a thorough investigation.”
Stone met with family members after Thanksgiving and showed them the investigation’s findings, he said.
He said additional time was spent on interviewing a witness the family had asked investigators to talk to.
“I do not want to speak for the family but I do not expect them to agree with this decision,” Stone said. “I understand that. My analysis is limited to this — Do I believe there was criminal intent? I do not.”
“Trey Pringle’s death was a tragedy but was not a result of a crime,” Stone said.
Pringle’s family statement spoke of their continuing concerns.
“Trey’s death highlights the need for more officer training and better protocols to address situations where officials are called to assist in situations involving an individual who is suffering from mental illness,” the statement reads. “The Pringle Family will continue to make efforts to ensure that Trey Pringle’s legacy lives on.”
The Pringle Family Statement
On February 20, 2018, the Pringle Family was forever changed by the death of their beloved son, brother, nephew, friend and father, Trey Pringle.
The circumstances of Trey’s death are difficult to digest, but his death itself is what is most difficult for the family to accept.
Kwajalean Pringle, Trey’s mother, called on local law enforcement to assist her and her son at a critical moment and she is devastated that her call for help resulted in the death of her son.
While we do not agree with Solicitor Stone’s decision to decline to prosecute the officers involved in Trey’s death, we understand that it is unusual for law enforcement to be prosecuted when a death occurs during the course of officers carrying out their duties.
More importantly, regardless of whether the officers involved are prosecuted or not, the Family’s grief from losing Trey does not change. The Pringle Family appreciates Solicitor Duffie Stone’s willingness to meet with the Family and personally share his reasons for declining to prosecute this case, as it demonstrates that he is aware of the impact that Trey’s death has made on the Family.
Anytime that a death occurs during an officer’s contact with the citizens that he/she is charged with protecting, whether it is the death of a citizen or an officer, there is cause for concern.
Trey’s death highlights the need for more officer training and better protocols to address situations where officers are called to assist in situations involving an individual who is suffering from mental illness. The Pringle Family will continue to make efforts to insure that Trey Pringle’s legacy lives on.
Teresa Moss: 618-540-1419