Castle owner won’t be charged in deadly Greenville Co. shooting

News conference on shooting and the reason for not prosecuting the homeowner.

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No charges will be filed in a fatal shooting at a Greenville Co. castle.

Solicitor Walt Wilkins has ruled the homeowner, Allen Stephenson, was legally standing his ground.

It happened March 19th on the property on Altamont Road. Greenville County deputies received a call about a suspicious person on the property and that the homeowner fired a shotgun.

When deputies arrived, they found one person dead.

The coroner says the victim, Matthew Whitman, died of a multiple gunshot wounds with a shotgun at close range.

LISTEN TO 911 CALL AS IT IS HAPPENING

The homeowner was identified as Southern Tide owner, Allen Stephenson.

Stephenson’s attorney said Stephenson was attacked at his home by the man and that, “he became hostile, and attacked Mr. Stephenson with a knife. Mr. Stephenson had no alternative but to defend himself with his shotgun.”

On Tuesday, Solicitor Wilkins released a statement saying after reviewing the evidence, he has found that the shooting was justified and that Stephenson is immune from prosecution.

Here is the complete statement from Solicitor Walt Wilkins:

Last week my office received the investigative file from the Sheriff’s Office regarding the fatal shooting that occurred on Altamont Rd on March 19, 2016. This office reviewed all available evidence and consulted with the Greenville County Sheriff’s investigators assigned to the case. The evidence presented required an analysis pursuant to S.C. Code Sections 16-11-440 and 16-11-450, the Castle Doctrine and the Stand Your Ground law. I find that, in accordance with applicable State law, the shooting death of Matthew Eugene Whitman was justifiable homicide and that Allen Stephenson is immune from prosecution. The evidence indicates that Mr. Stephenson was legally standing his ground on his property and lawfully met force with deadly force and is immune from prosecution.

The family of the man who was killed released the following statement:

The Whitman family is disappointed by the decision not to prosecute Allen Stephenson for the homicide death of our son, Matthew. We have waited patiently while this investigation has preceded and have been provided small pieces of information along the way. We look forward to seeing the entire investigation file now that the Solicitor’s Office claims the investigation is “over” and the Solicitor’s and Sheriff’s Offices have promised to now release it.

The pieces of information that we have been provided suggest that Mr. Stephenson actually provoked this encounter. The family’s attorneys were allowed to hear the 911 call. During that call, the 911 operator and the witness both pleaded with Mr. Stephenson to return inside since 911 and been called and law enforcement was on the way. Matthew, at worst, was simply trespassing that morning.

It is interesting that Mr. Stephenson himself was convicted of trespassing, but when he pleaded guilty, he did not have to even pay a fine and he suffered no other consequences. Mr. Stephenson’s trespassing certainly did not result in the loss of his life.

During the 911 call, Mr. Stephenson went to the balcony of his castle and fired two shots from his Kel-Tec shotgun at Matthew when Matthew was in no way threatening any person on Mr. Stephenson’s estate. Then, for some inexplicable reason, he decided to leave the safety of his castle, and go down the stairs around the property to confront Matthew in the yard where he fired numerous shots from his high capacity shotgun at close range. It is believed that at least three of those shotgun blasts struck Matthew, leading to his death. This seems to be a confrontation that Mr. Stephenson aggressively initiated, against the pleas of both the 911 operator and the witness. We are therefore very upset that the Solicitor’s Office has chosen not to prosecute Mr. Stephenson for his actions.

We are anxious to hear all of the complete facts uncovered during this investigation and to compare all of the evidence gathered by law enforcement with the additional evidence we have gathered ourselves. After that, we will make a determination whether or not we will proceed with a civil action. Any questions can be directed to attorneys David Price in Greenville or Robert Rikard in Columbia.

A lawyer for Stephenson says the Whitman’s family lawyer made prior statements that Matthew’s actions were uncharacteristic of him.

They offer an incident report showing an incident that “Whitman’s own family felt compelled to seek police protection because of his behavior.” and that he was “armed with a knife.”

The incident report they are talking about says that Whitman had broke a vase and pushed a door the wrong way until it broke off its hinges.

Deputies said he had a folding knife clipped to his front pocket.

The grandparents did not press charges and said that they did feel safe with Matthew being at the home with the other grandson being present.

They did ask if there was a way to make Mathew get help for his depression and that he wasn’t acting like himself.

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