By Dianne Gallagher, Pamela Kirland and Wes Bruer
A South Carolina man, who survived being shot nine times by York County sheriff’s deputies responding to a “health check” call about his suicidality two years ago, claims in a recent lawsuit that he was speaking with his mother in her truck when officers approached them “like cowboys from a John Wayne movie.”
Trevor Mullinax and his mother, Tammy Beason, allege the deputies immediately drew their weapons and used deadly force without trying to defuse the situation and are suing the York County and sheriff’s department for gross negligence, among other claims.
The lawsuit, filed Friday and obtained by CNN, claims that “the sheriff’s deputies were grossly negligent, willful, reckless, reckless, and reckless in their use of deadly force toward Plaintiff Mullinax and Plaintiff Beason, as well as causing damage.” physical, mental, physical, mental, irreparable and permanent”. and emotional harm to Plaintiffs.”
Mullinax was charged with pointing and presenting a weapon by the State Law Enforcement Division in connection with its investigation of the shooting. That charge is still pending.
However, Mullinax’s attorneys said that while he was “in lawful possession of a shotgun” inside the truck, “at no time before, during, or after the sheriff’s deputies began firing did plaintiff Mullinax raise , pointed, or otherwise moved with a weapon in such a manner as to authorize sheriff’s deputies to use deadly force.”
In several dash and body cam videos seen by CNN, there is no mention of seeing a weapon before the officers began firing their weapons at Mullinax’s truck. However, body camera footage shows officers after the shooting discussing seeing a “shotgun or rifle.” An officer can be heard saying that he found a gun in the truck.
CNN obtained body camera footage showing officers with their guns drawn, surrounding the truck and demanding to see Mullinax’s hands before firing. The video also shows Beason standing next to the truck, talking to her son through the driver’s side window. Lawyers for the family say officers fired nearly 50 shots at point-blank range as she suffered a mental health crisis, claiming her client was contemplating suicide. Beason can be heard screaming and crying as the officers handcuff her. Lawyers for the family also accuse the officers of failing to provide immediate medical assistance to Mullinax.
The lawsuit alleges that a concussed Beason “lung backwards” to avoid the bullets that struck the vehicle.
Two years after the May 7, 2021 incident, both mother and son are suing for undetermined damages.
The dispatcher said the crisis was caused in part by a burglary warrant for Mullinax’s arrest.
Justin Bamberg, Mullinax’s attorney, said during a news conference Tuesday that Mullinax had been hit multiple times by bullets, including directly in the back of the head.
“Almost 50 shots at someone who needed help. A citizen who needed help,” Bamberg said.
Mullinax, who was present at the news conference, acknowledged that the shooting was sparked by a mental health crisis.
“I can tell you it’s hard to believe in the police when they destroyed everything I believe in that day,” Tammy Beason said during the press conference. “It has taken me a long time to recover from that. I’m still recovering.”
According to a recording of the 911 call, a friend of Mullinax’s had called emergency services with another friend in a three-way call to report that Mullinax was having a mental health crisis and was potentially suicidal.
“We are just trying to help our friend,” the friend said. They told the dispatcher that they suspected the crisis stemmed, in part, from Mullinax believing there was a warrant out for his arrest for robbery due to an incident that occurred the night before.
The 911 caller explained to dispatcher that Mullinax’s mother was out with him and that his friend “locked himself in his truck with a knife, and I’m saying that because I don’t want him to jump out and get shot, I don’t know.” if that’s your plan. The friends provided cell phone numbers for Mullinax and his mother so police could contact them.
However, the complaint alleges that the 911 dispatcher failed to provide responding officers with the cell phone numbers he was given for Mullinax or his mother.
The filing says that when deputies arrived on the scene, they found Mullinax’s grandfather in the house. Body camera video obtained by CNN shows the grandfather directing officers to where he thought Mullinax might have parked.
Handcuffed mother immediately after shooting
The 911 dispatcher relayed information to officers about Mullinax’s suicide and the warrant, but officers who arrived at the home appeared focused on the pending warrant based on comments recorded on body camera video.
“He has to go to jail,” an officer told Mullinax’s grandfather.
As they approach the truck in the distance, an officer can be heard on dash cam video remarking aloud that there is “someone standing right next to” the truck and that Mullinax can be seen inside.
Body camera video shows officers arriving, yelling “hands up” and “hands, hands” before opening fire on the truck, with Beason still standing there, all in less than 10 seconds.
Mullinax was transferred for life to a hospital in Charlotte, North Carolina, for his injuries. Dashcam video shows that it appears that at least 14 minutes passed before emergency services provided help for Mullinax. He was handcuffed and taken from the van after the shooting.
The officers handcuffed Beason immediately after the shooting. She can be seen on body cam video of her crying hysterically as she begs to see her child.
“I was trying to get him to come in, and he was finally talking to me. He was talking to me. Why you came? He could have done this peacefully. He could have done this peacefully,” Beason sobbed to an officer, who captured the interaction on his body camera.
Sheriff says Mullinax wanted police to kill him
At a news conference Wednesday, York County Sheriff Kevin Tolson said his agency had not received a lawsuit and he felt “obliged” to address the claims.
“I feel obligated to bring this lawsuit in what I consider to be the right place and that is the court,” Tolson said. “I’ve never given a press conference on litigation, litigation that hasn’t been delivered to me yet.”
Tolson said Mullinax had active warrants through the York Police Department for felony violent and malicious injury to personal property. The sheriff’s deputies’ claim that Mullinax pulled and pointed a gun at them when they arrived after a welfare check request for Mullinax. He said that all four deputies fired their weapons at Mullinax.
“Four officers approached an individual wanted for a violent felony who was armed with a knife and was experiencing mental anguish. When those deputies approached, this individual took out a shotgun. Fearing for his safety, these officers fired their weapons at the individual,” said Tolson, who also claimed that Mullinax’s mother corroborated officers’ claims that her son grabbed a gun when police arrived on the scene.
In response to that sheriff’s claim, lawyers for Mullinax and Beason told CNN that “on the day of the shooting, Tammy Beason told SLED investigators that Trevor grabbed the shotgun but did so when he saw deputies driving down the street.” Highway 324, not as officers.” thrown to the front of his truck.”
Tolson also said SLED’s investigation shows that upon arriving at the hospital after being treated by officers, Mullinax told medical staff he wanted to kill himself but then “decided to have the police do it.”
Tolson denounced criticism of police officers for their handling of situations “that should not be the responsibility of law enforcement” and said more mental health resources are needed.
The CNN Wire
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