COLUMBIA (AP) — A man shot in the foyer of his South Carolina home by a police officer firing through a window as he checked on a medical alarm will get a $650,000 settlement for his injuries.
The Greenville County deputy said Dick Tench had a gun. Tench said he had a concealed weapons permit and was getting ready to check on noises outside his home after someone rang his doorbell without identifying themselves.
The officer did not have the blue lights on his cruiser activated when he arrived at the Simpsonville home.
Tench sued the Greenville County Sheriff’s Office and deputy Kevin Azzara. State prosecutors decided not to charge Azzara in the shooting.
The settlement was reached earlier this week in federal court. Tench and his family are glad to have the lawsuit resolved almost three years after the shooting, said Tench’s lawyer Beattie Ashmore.
Azzara was alone when he was sent to Tench’s Simpsonville home just after midnight June 14, 2019, after a cellphone connected to the address sent out a medical distress alarm.
The officer, who was wearing a body camera, rang the doorbell, but got no answer. He then stepped off the porch to look around the house when he saw movement inside, the sheriff’s office said in a briefing about the shooting.
The body camera footage starts with Azzara shining a flashlight through a long, narrow window at a man holding a gun a few steps back from the closed door.
Tench is then heard screaming in pain on the footage, saying he had been shot twice. “Oh my God, call the cops please!”
Azzara, standing in the yard away from the door, yells back, “I am the cops!”
The deputy gets inside and blood can be seen spreading on Tench’s shorts.
“You came to my house at 12 o’clock at night. I’m sleeping. Goddamn, I’ve got to protect my house,” Tench said on the body camera video. “You (expletive)! I can’t believe you did this to me!”
“We’re not going to talk about this right now,” Azzara responds calmly after coming inside to provide first aid. “We’re going to focus on keeping you alive, OK? So take some deep breaths and calm down and you’re going to be OK.”
A bullet remains in Tench’s hip and it took him a month before he was mentally ready to go back to his house, his lawyer said.
There was no medical emergency at Tench’s home and the reason the call went to an alarm company has never been clarified.
It was the second on-duty shooting in just over two years for Azzara. He was one of five Greenville County deputies at another Simpsonville home in March 2017 when 50-year-old Joseph Inabinet was killed.
Inabinet had a pellet gun and told police he wanted to die when they responded to an argument he had with his estranged wife. Azzara fired 10 rounds with at least one of them hitting Inabinet, according to the State Law Enforcement Division report that prosecutors reviewed before clearing him.
Inabinet’s estranged wife was given a $175,000 settlement in his death, according to The Greenville News, which first reported on the settlement in Tench’s shooting.
Azzara also fired shots at Inabinet’s home a year earlier, telling state agents he shot a dog at the home after it bit an officer.
Azzara is still employed as a deputy, said Greenville County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Lt. Ryan Flood. Flood said he would not comment further.
Follow Jeffrey Collins on Twitter at https://twitter.com/JSCollinsAP.