SIMPSONVILLE, S.C. (WSPA) – Simpsonville Police say they arrested a man who they say fired shots during a robbery and was later found hiding in a field with his 12-year old daughter.
7 News’ Addie Hampton talked to that daughter and her mother, Monday, who believe the Simpsonville police mishandled the child and treated her harshly.
Derrick Bernard Cunningham is charged with armed robbery and attempted murder after Simpsonville Police say he fired shots while robbing four people at Bradford Place Apartments on West Georgia Road on Saturday.
Officers say they went there around 1:40 a.m. after getting several calls about shots fired. The victims described the man who they said robbed them. Those victims say Cunningham fired a shot at one of them during the robbery, but no one was hurt.
Simpsonville Police officers say they found Cunningham hiding in a nearby field with his 12-year-old daughter.
“When we got to the middle of the field, he told me I’m going to have to be tough and then that’s when we saw a police truck,” the girl said, explaining what her father told her in that field.
7 News chose not to reveal the identity of Derrick Cunningham’s 12 year old daughter, but the emotion behind her words played out as her hands wrung in circles explaining what went down.
She said a terrifying series events started when her father woke her up around 3 am telling her they needed to move.
“We went out the back door and we walked to the field thing because we were going to walk somewhere,” she explained.
Walking to a nearby field, they got flat to the ground. The girl said she saw lights and policemen.
“Police was rushing us with guns in their hands and then I got up and said please don’t shoot me,” she said.
She and her father were handcuffed, taken into custody, and separated.
Police said Cunningham fired a shot at his four robbery victims in the very apartment complex where they say his daughter lay sleeping.
“The handcuffs, they was tight on me. I did have a mark, but I guess it’s gone,” she said, showing her wrists. “And then my hands was hurting because I was in the back of the truck for like an hour.”
This outrages the girl’s mother, Donitha Johnson, who believes her innocent child was treated like a common criminal.
“I just want to know why? Why? Because I know they wouldn’t put their kids through that…a 12 year old. A little girl,” said Johnson.
The Simpsonville police said they had to follow procedure.
“Our procedure, as you know, as an officer, going to a scene like such where there are guns involved, a robbery is involved, it’s a hostile situation. Yes, we’re going to place everybody into custody and have them in handcuffs. That’s what happened,” explained Lt. Timmie Williams.
Williams said the girl was in handcuffs for 30 minutes until she was released to a relative. Johnson was unreachable at work at the time.
While they admit they behaved softer once they learned the child’s age, Williams said it’s regrettable that her father dragged her into danger in the first place.
Meanwhile, Johnson said her daughter is a wreck.
“She’s traumatized now. She can’t sleep. She can’t eat for the last couple days. She’s been waking up the last few nights sweating,” said Johnson, who is hiring a lawyer.
When asked if she was angry at her child’s father, she said he was a good man and she’s not certain he did anything wrong.
Officers searched Cunningham’s home and say they found weapons, clothing and other items that were taken from the victims.
Cunningham is charged with four counts of armed robbery, one count of attempted murder and one count of possession of a weapon during a violent crime.