Deputy Gary Pence of the York County Sheriff’s Office shot Trenton Lonnie Fondren in the Dec. 1 incident on Old Limestone Road, authorities said.
Pence was trying to take Fondren into custody in the early morning hours. Fondren went into his patrol car and was grabbing the rifle when Pence fatally shot him, said Kevin Brackett, 16th Circuit Solicitor.
The incident, around 4 a.m. Dec. 1, took just 20 seconds, and the shooting itself about three seconds, Brackett said. Pence was justified in using deadly force, Brackett told The Herald.
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“Deputy Pence was placed in an untenable position by the actions of Mr. Findren, and was left with no choice but to use deadly force to eliminate the clear threat he (Fondren) posed when he (Fondren) commandeered a patrol car equipped with an assault rifle,” Brackett said Tuesday.
Brackett told The Herald Tuesday morning he had spoken to Fondren’s family Monday and explained that no charges would be filed against Pence.
“The family understood the decision we made and why we made it,” Brackett told The Herald.
The State Law Enforcement Division investigated because a deputy was involved in the shooting.
The incident started when Fondren, 33, who was accused of being intoxicated and armed with a knife, was threatening his mother, police and prosecutors said.
Pence, the first deputy to respond, found Fondren walking in the road near the home with a knife in his hand, authorities said.
The area was very dark and had limited visibility, Brackett said
Pence got out of his patrol car and pulled his handgun while ordering Fondren to drop the knife and surrender; Fondren refused, according to the SLED investigation.
Fondren continued to approach Pence in an aggressive manner as Pence told Fondren that “he would have to shoot Fondren” if he did not stop advancing toward Pence, Brackett said.
Pence, who has served since 2016, backed up to keep what Brackett called a “safe distance” between himself and Fondren.
Fondren then got in the patrol car through the open driver side door, Brackett said.
The assault rifle was between the seats; it later was found to have Fondren’s DNA on it where he grabbed it, Brackett said.
The discovery Fondren’s DNA on the gun showed that he was “attempting to deploy the rifle,” Brackett said.
“At this point, Deputy Pence shot and killed Mr. Fondren with his handgun,” Brackett said.
Earlier this month, Brackett cleared two Rock Hill Police Department officers who wounded a domestic violence suspect on Thanksgiving Day. Brackett said the suspect had pointed a weapon at the officers.