August 2, 2014

Records: Lancaster woman sought cocaine, talked of ‘suicide by cop’ before deputies killed her

Before a standoff with police in April, a woman shot to death by Lancaster County deputies searched for someone who would sell her cocaine and talked about “suicide by cop.”

Before a standoff with police in April, a woman shot to death by Lancaster County deputies searched for someone who would sell her cocaine and talked about “suicide by cop.”

Ingrid Mayer also told officers that she had lost her husband and had been evicted from her home, according to State Law Enforcement Division documents released last week. Mayer, 55, died of a gunshot wound to the chest April 24 on Grace Avenue, less than a mile from the home she shared with her boyfriend, Bill Sinclair. Investigators found that she had Prozac, Benadryl and antidepressants in her system when she was shot.

Her slaying was the 14th officer-involved shooting in South Carolina this year. As of last week, 14 more officer-involved shootings had been reported in the state – 28 this year.

SLED closed its investigation of the Lancaster shooting after Sixth Circuit Solicitor Doug Barfield wrote investigators he had no plans to prosecute and said that Deputy Glenn Reams was justified in shooting Mayer.

“Ms. Mayer was a danger to herself, the officers on the scene and the general public when she committed these acts,” he wrote.

A week after Mayer died, the Sheriff’s Office released its own findings following an internal investigation. The report detailed the actions the three deputies involved – Shane Black, Kenneth Luke Bundrum and Reams – took April 24, calling them justified. After the shooting, the three deputies were placed on paid administrative leave, but soon returned to work.

The Herald obtained SLED’s case file on the shooting through a Freedom of Information Act request. The file details steps investigators took to probe Mayer’s death.

“(The officers) certainly have to live with what took place that day,” Sheriff Barry Faile said last week. “It’s not easy... they don’t take it lightly.”

But Sinclair, Mayer’s boyfriend, said authorities will “never be able to convince me” that she intended to commit suicide by cop.

‘Highly intoxicated’

On April 24, Jane Mcateer and her granddaughter found a gray Nissan Versa blocking Mcateer’s driveway after returning home from dropping off her great-granddaughter, according to SLED documents. Mcateer spoke with the driver, later identified as Mayer, and asked if she was OK.

Mayer, whom Mcateer said she had never met, opened the car door and “just staggered and fell over everything.”

Mcateer told investigators Mayer wanted to know where she could find “Tameka,” a black woman who apparently would sell her cocaine. Last week in an interview with The Herald, Mcateer said she told Mayer she didn’t know “Tameka.”

According to SLED documents, Mcateer asked Mayer if she had been drinking. Mayer smirked, reports show, and said, “Yeah, too much.” Despite Mcateer’s protests, Mayer got back in the car and drove away.

“She was clearly highly intoxicated,” Mcateer said. “She had to hold onto something as she walked.”

Mcateer called 911, telling dispatchers that a “clearly” drunk Mayer was driving through the neighborhood.

Mcateer didn’t hear any gunshots, she said, but she did hear deputies call for EMS. She and her granddaughter walked to the accident site and saw paramedics work on Mayer before they were ordered away.

“I don’t think it was necessary to shoot and kill her,” Mcateer said.

‘...This is about to be suicide by cop’

At about 7:40 a.m., deputies Kenneth Luke Bundrum, 26, and Shane Black, 27, were sent to Grace Avenue after dispatchers relayed Mcateer’s drunk driver call, SLED documents show.

They found the car at the end of a driveway and Mayer sitting in the driver’s seat. She told officers she did not have her driver’s license because it was suspended. She claimed she recently lost her husband and would be evicted from her home. Court records show that state troopers arrested Mayer on April 23, charging her with driving under the influence. She was released from jail April 24 on a personal recognizance bond.

While Bundrum went to check Mayer’s background at his patrol car, Black stayed with Mayer, standing on the driver’s side of her car. Her door was open. Deputy Glenn Reams, 42, arrived as backup. Bundrum called him to inquire why Mayer’s DMV information was not showing up.

As Black stood at Mayer’s car, she started the vehicle “so she could have heat,” records show. She put her hands on the gear shift despite Black’s warnings that she keep her hands off of it. Mayer then looked at Black and told him: “You know what, this is about to be suicide by cop.”

Black stepped back and put his hand on his holster. Mayer put her legs back in her car, put the car in reverse and began driving backward with Black stuck in the frame of the driver’s side door. The car dragged Black a short distance before he pulled away, investigators said. The car rammed into Bundrum’s patrol car. Mayer closed her car door and drove toward Reams, investigators say. Reams told investigators the car’s engine “revved and the tires were throwing rocks and gravel trying to gain traction.”

“I was in fear for my safety as I thought she was going to run me over,” Reams wrote in a statement. He drew his weapon, pointed it at Mayer and ordered her to stop the car. “I believed that she was going to hit me with her vehicle and I pulled the trigger on my service weapon two times.”

Once shot, Mayer lost control of the car and drove past Reams, making a left turn and hitting a ditch across the street. She was not wearing a seat belt and was thrown from the driver’s side of the car to the passenger’s side, according to SLED documents.

After police and paramedics tried reviving her, Mayer was pronounced dead at the scene. She had been hit with bullets twice, investigators say. The shot which pierced her lung and aorta was fatal. The other shot hit her leg.

Minutes after the accident, Bill Sinclair, Mayer’s boyfriend of six months, told a police officer he tried convincing Mayer to seek help for her drinking problem, documents show. He told her he could not be with her if she did not get help. He explained that he had been sober for 31 years and could not live with someone “that stayed drunk all the time.”

SLED agents did not obtain statements from Sinclair, who told The Herald last week that though Mayer drank, “she never got out of the way.”

“I’ve been around her when she’s been sober and I’ve been around her when she was drinking,” he said. “She would just drink a little bit once in a while. Sometimes, she’d get pretty tight... but she never raised her voice.”

Mayer and Sinclair began dating shortly after both of their spouses died. They lived together for a short time.

“She had a heart of gold,” he said. “She would help anybody that she could.” She enjoyed fishing and taking care of her four German Shepherds – “she loved them dogs to death.”

Shooting aftermath

Faile said his deputies “did everything according to policy.” No policy changes were necessary because officers’ actions were by-the-book, he said. The incident, he said, won’t be soon forgotten.

“Any time where you take the life of someone,” he said, officers will think about what happened and what could have happened.

Officers who kill suspects can experience a variety of reactions afterward, including shock, hyperventilation, nausea, irritability, strong emotional outbursts and trouble sleeping, said Dr. Bill Wells, a Rock Hill psychiatrist who has treated many police officers.

“No law enforcement officer I have ever seen or worked with or dealt with has ever wanted to kill another human being,” Wells said. “As normal human beings, we don’t want to kill another human being. They don’t want to do that (but) there come times when you simply have to do that to save your life or save the life of somebody else. You have to then develop coping skills.”

Wells said Mayer’s actions before her death fit criteria for a “suicide by cop” perpetrator.

“They have to demonstrate some sort of intent to die,” he said. “She obviously did.”

Victims of suicide by cop, Wells said, don’t have to be opponents of the police.

“They’re just using law enforcement,” he said. “Once some of these officers really start catching on to what happened, they get really, really angry at the person who forced them to kill them because they didn’t want to hurt anybody.”

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