GREENVILLE (AP) — A Greenville police officer was justified when he shot and killed a 19-year-old man with a baseball bat last November, prosecutor Walt Wilkins said July 2.
The officer had to make a split-second decision after Senovio Maldonado hit a stranger in the head with the bat, and then started approaching officers while holding the bat above his head, Wilkins said.
Investigators determined Maldonado was no more than 6 feet away from the officer when he was shot, Wilkins said.
The prosecutor made his decision after reviewing a State Law Enforcement Division investigation and other evidence. Wilkins said there was no surveillance camera footage of the shooting.
Some questioned why the officers didn’t use a Taser or other non-deadly force to stop Maldonado because he was only armed with a baseball bat. Wilkins said a baseball bat can be a deadly weapon, and the law allows officers to shoot a suspect who is a threat to kill other people.
“Could they have done something else — and the answer is sure, they could have,” Wilkins said. “Whether that is wrong or right is not for my purposes.”
Maldonado became angry because he wasn’t allowed to enter a club because he did not have an ID. He drove away, but brushed by two pedestrians, who reacted angrily. Maldonado then got out of his car and hit one of the men in the head with a baseball bat, authorities said.
Two officers at a nearby traffic stop saw the assault and rushed to help. They ordered Maldonado to drop the bat, but instead he continued to hold it over his head as though he was going to hit someone, Wilkins said.
Several witness across the street said it appeared Maldonado dropped the bat before he was shot, but Wilkins said the witnesses closest to the shooting agreed with the officer’s version of events.
The SLED investigation determined Maldonado had a blood-alcohol level of 0.14 percent when he died, which is nearly twice the legal limit to drive in South Carolina.
Wilkins said he met with Maldonado’s family Monday to tell him he was not filing any charges. He said the case was a tragedy all around.
“Nobody wins in this scenario,” Wilkins said. “However, my job as your elected solicitor is to review the facts that we have and analyze them under the law.”