Crime

Lancaster 911 tape: Pastor forced wife to knees at gunpoint minutes before fatal police shooting

Law enforcement agencies on scene May 28 after the officer-involved shooting at a Lancaster County store.
Law enforcement agencies on scene May 28 after the officer-involved shooting at a Lancaster County store. Teddy Kulmala

Just minutes before two Lancaster County deputies shot and killed a local pastor who allegedly pointed a gun at them, the man was threatening his estranged wife – holding her at gunpoint inside a store, forcing her to get on her knees – according to a recording of a 911 call.

The incident happened May 28 at the Carolina Corner store on U.S. 521, just north of Lancaster. Darrell Morgan, 60, was killed.

The Herald’s news partner WSOC-TV obtained the 911 call tape on Friday. On the recording, the caller identifies herself as the Carolina Corner owner.

She tells the dispatch worker in a clear, but hurried, voice: “I need police. I need them here, and I need them now.”

The caller says she has her young son with her inside the store, and she tells the 911 dispatch employee that a man is holding his wife at gunpoint.

Authorities have said Morgan – pastor of New Harvest Freewill Baptist Church in the Lancaster County community of Tradesville – started the domestic dispute and hostage situation with his wife inside the store.

When deputies responded just after 2 p.m., Morgan was shot. He was later pronounced dead at Springs Memorial Hospital. Autopsy results are pending.

The call – which lasted nearly 2 minutes and 30 seconds – can be heard below:

         

The 911 recording indicates that Morgan forced his wife of nearly 40 years to get on her knees while he pointed a gun at her. The caller says, “He’s yelling at her, and she’s crying that she’s sorry.”

Also during the call, the store owner explains: “She apparently left him or something.” She urges dispatch to get deputies on the scene quickly, saying, “I need somebody now.”

Earlier in the call, the store owner tells the 911 dispatcher that Morgan entered the store separately from his wife.

“He walked straight up to her and they were talking,” the caller said. “And then she was walking away from him and he pulled a gun on her.”

The dispatcher tells the woman on the phone to get herself and her child to safety, suggesting they could lock themselves in a bathroom until police arrived.

“We’re in safety – me and (my child),” the caller responds, “but she’s not,” referring to Morgan’s wife.

About one minute into the call, voices are heard in the background, but it’s not clear what is being said. The caller says she, her child, the gunman and his wife are the only ones inside the store.

“He’s telling her to get down on her knees,” she tells the dispatcher.

After the woman gives authorities a description of the man and what he’s wearing, the 911 employee assures her that help is on the way. The 911 tape ends before deputies arrive on the scene.

The two Lancaster County deputies involved in the incident have been placed on paid administrative leave while the State Law Enforcement Division investigates. Placing officers involved in shootings on leave while the shooting is investigated is standard practice in South Carolina. The case is South Carolina’s 22nd officer-involved shooting this year.

SLED officials have said it is their investigators’ understanding so far that Morgan made threats and pointed his gun at the deputies just before he was fatally shot.

Morgan “presented a clear and immediate threat to the civilians in the business with him and to the officers on scene,” Sheriff Barry Faile has said. “I am confident the officers ... who answered this call acted in accordance with their training and the policies of the sheriff’s office.

“Our prayers and condolences are extended to the Morgan family during this difficult time.”

Morgan’s friends and loved ones have said the killing and Morgan’s alleged actions toward his wife have shocked them.

Anna Douglas •  803-329-4068

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