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S.C. police 'immediately' opened fire 50 times on suicidal man and his mother, lawsuit says

The York County deputies made no attempt to de-escalate the situation, the survivors say in a lawsuit.

A South Carolina man who survived being shot nine times by sheriff’s deputies alleges in a newly filed lawsuit that he was sitting in his pickup truck and talking to his mother when the officers descended on them “like cowboys from a John Wayne movie.”

Trevor Mullinax and his mother said in their lawsuit that the deputies drew their weapons and defaulted “to using deadly force, immediately, without attempting to deescalate the situation.”

Bodycam video obtained by NBC News shows the deputies with their guns out converging on the pickup and yelling, “Let me see your hands” before opening fire, while Mullinax’s mother, Tammy Beason, is still standing beside the truck and talking to her son through the driver's side window.

Bodycam video shows Tammy Beason standing beside the truck and talking to her son through the driver's side window and Beason diving backward while yelling in horror as bullets from the sheriff’s deputies hit the vehicle.
Bodycam video shows Tammy Beason standing beside the truck and talking to her son through the driver's side window and Beason diving backward while yelling in horror as bullets from the sheriff’s deputies hit the vehicle.Obtained by NBC News

The deputies fired 50 times at close range, and when it was over the deafening roar was replaced by Beason’s piercing screams, the video shows.

“In utter shock, Plaintiff Beason dove backwards while yelling in horror as bullets from the Sheriff’s deputies hit the vehicle narrowly missing her,” the suit states.

Now, two years after the May 7, 2021, confrontation with the York County sheriff’s deputies, the mother and son are suing York County and the department for unspecified damages.

"There was a round that hit him smack dab in the middle of the back of his head," Mullinax's lawyer, Justin Bamberg, said Tuesday at a news conference attended by Beason. "Never seen anybody get shot in the back of the head who’s a threat to law enforcement or anybody else."

Mullinax, who was standing beside Bamberg at the news conference, weighed in after his lawyer described how the chain of events that resulted in his being shot was precipitated by a mental health crisis.

"May is Mental Health Awareness Month," Mullinax said. "I hate that I have to be the face of it this month. But if it helps even one single person in this world to not have to go through what me and my family have, I’m OK with it."

Beason said she's always been supportive of law enforcement, but seeing her son get shot has shaken her faith in the police.

"Just because they are law enforcement, that did not give them the right to do what they did," Beason said. "And, you know, I want to be able to believe in law enforcement and to get back my belief that they’re not going to hurt you." 

The York County Sheriff's Office said in a statement released after the news conference that it had not yet been served with the lawsuit and would not comment until its lawyers review it.

But the agency said that the four deputies involved in the shooting had been "cleared of any wrongdoing" after an investigation by the State Law Enforcement Division and that three of them were still on the job in York County.

"Mr. Mullinax chose to put these men in danger by pulling a shotgun," Sheriff Kevin Tolson said in the statement. "These deputies responded appropriately to the threat as they were trained to do. Had Mr. Mullinax made different choices that day, deputies would not have been required to use force."

Mullinax, 29, lives in Rock Hill, South Carolina, records show. Those same records also indicate he's been arrested for breaking and entering and burglary and for misdemeanor domestic violence. His mother is 48 and also lives in Rock Hill.

Trevor Mullinax in the hospital.
Trevor Mullinax in the hospital.Courtesy Tammy Beason

In the court papers filed May 5 in the Court of Common Pleas, Mullinax does not deny he was in a bad way before the deputies arrived and the bullets began flying. He says he was sitting in his pickup truck, which was parked on his family's property, and his mother was trying to console him.

"Trevor was just in a really dark place," said Bamberg, who is also a Democratic member of the state's House of Representatives. "And he had been contemplating suicide."

Several days before he was shot, Mullinax had "issues with this girlfriend" and kicked in the door of her home, he said.

"It led to him being charged with burglary, didn’t steal anything," Bamberg said, adding "that charge actually, in fact, got dropped, because it was nonsense."

When the deputies arrived, Mullinax had a shotgun in the truck, but "at no point did he point the weapon at himself" or anyone else, according to the complaint.

In the meantime, a call was placed by either a friend or a family member to the sheriff's department requesting a "wellness check" on Mullinax, the complaint states.

The dispatchers were provided with the cellphone numbers for both Mullinax and his mother.

Instead of calling the numbers, a team of deputies went to the property and, when they got there, Mullinax's grandfather directed them to the back where his grandson was parked and talking to his mother, the papers state.

Mullinax's grandfather talking to a team of deputies.
Mullinax's grandfather talking to a team of deputies.Obtained by NBC News

"Prior to arriving at the location on the property where Plaintiff Mullinax was still sitting inside his pickup truck, Sheriff’s deputies drew their firearms and were prepared to shoot Plaintiff Mullinax and exercise deadly force before they made verbal contact with him," the court papers say.

When they got there, the video shows they began firing almost immediately.

Mullinax had his arms up and was complying with the deputies' orders, his lawyers insisted.

"At no point prior to, during, or after Sheriff’s deputies began shooting did Plaintiff Mullinax raise, point, or otherwise move with a weapon in such a fashion as would authorize Sheriff’s deputies to use deadly force," the complaint states.

Despite that, the papers state, "Sheriff’s deputies arrested and charged Plaintiff Mullinax with pointing and presenting a firearm at the deputies, which did not happen and was not true."

The charges, the complaint states, were lodged to provide "cover" for "the utter excessive use of deadly force exhibited by Sheriff’s deputies."

Mullinax was hit nine times, including once in the back of the head, his lawyers said.

Beason, despite being directly beside the pickup truck, was not struck by the gunfire.

The victim's Tammy Beason.
Trevor Mullinax's mother, Tammy Beason.Obtained by NBC News

There is no evidence that Mullinax or his mother "committed a crime or attempted to hinder any officer on scene, interfere, or resist arrest," the complaint states. "To the contrary, all available evidence indicated that Plaintiff was attempting to be compliant during the extremely short window of time immediately following the arrival of officers."