No charges will be made in the death of a 24-year-old Seabrook man, who died following a taser encounter with police last year.
Family members of Trey Pringle say they don’t agree with the decision, but regardless of whether those involved are prosecuted or not, their grief remains the same.
After reviewing a final report from the South Carolina Law Enforcement Divison, 14th Circuit Solicitor Duffie Stone found no evidence to support any criminal charges in Pringle’s death.
“Trey Pringle’s death was a tragedy, but it was not the result of a crime,” Stone said.
Pringle died at the hospital on Feb. 20, 2018, after he was tased multiple times by deputies and suffered cardiac arrest.
Three days prior to his death, Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office (BCSO) deputies responded to a report of an out-of-control and injured family member at a residence on Detour Road.
The individual, later identified as Pringle, was said to have been exhibiting unusual behavior. While watching TV with relatives, he left the house, ran into the woods, re-entered the home and began beating on the television.
Family members told authorities Pringle had a history of mental illness and “thought demons were after him.”
When BCSO arrived on the scene, Pringle in the living room with a broken TV. He appeared to be bleeding but refused to let deputies see his hands, which appeared to be the source of the injury.
When EMS arrived, officials say Pringle became combative.
While attempting to restrain him in handcuffs, Stone says Pringle struck one deputy in the head and hit another deputy as well.
Pringle broke free and barricaded himself in a room as deputies called for backup. He came out of the room once and was tased before going back into the room.
Eventually, Pringle came out and sat by the TV, but was still refusing commands. He gave officers his hands but began fighting when they attempted to handcuff him.
Stone says Pringle picked up a large piece of glass and swung, prompting deputies to tase him a second time.
He was still fighting.
Deputies then stunned Pringle three times to his leg, allowing them to restrain him, according to Stone.
“I do believe it was their only option,” explains Stone. “They did everything in their power, starting with commands, then moving to attempted physical restraint by trying to get Trey Pringle’s hands and getting them handcuffed.
“I do not believe they had a choice but to deploy their taser. In fact, after they deployed the taser they had to use, had to bring in other officers to subdue him.”
Once secured, EMS discovered Pringle was in cardiac arrest. CPR was administered and he was transported to the hospital.
Three days later, he was pronounced dead.
An autopsy found that numerous factors caused Pringle’s death, including:
- cerebral edema: swelling in the brain caused by excessive fluid
- neuronal hypoxia: a condition that occurs when the entire brain is deprived of an adequate oxygen supply
- bipolar affective disorder with mania and psychosis
The cause of death is listed as death during restraint in a prone position with chest compression. The manner of death has been ruled homicide.
“This is a medical classification and not a legal one,” Stone said. “His death came at the hands of another. His mania, the excitement of the situation, his combative behavior all likely caused Pringle to experience an elevated heart rate.”
He added that Pringle’s need for additional oxygen and prior asthmatic condition, as well as the position he was restrained in, all caused a reduction in his ability to get oxygen.
After review, Stone found that there was no intent on anyone’s part to harm Pringle.
“I do not honestly believe any of those officers or any of the EMS personnel intended to harm Trey Pringle. They were trying to protect him and trying to protect the people around him,” he said. “And in fact, if you also recall, they were called to the scene because family members were concerned about the danger to himself and others.”
Stone added that he does not expect the family to agree with the decision.
“I certainly understand that. My decision is perhaps different from a civil analysis or something like that. I have to determine if there was criminal intent,” he said, adding, “I found no criminal intent.”
The Pringle Family issued the following statement through their attorney, Shannon Chandler, regarding the incident:
On February 20, 2018, the Pringle Family was forever changed by the death of their beloved son, brother, nephew, friend and father, Trey Pringle.
The circumstances of Trey’s death are difficult to digest, but his death itself is what is most difficult for the family to accept.
Kwajalean Pringle, Trey’s mother, called on local law enforcement to assist her and her son at a critical moment and she is devastated that her call for help resulted in the death of her son.
While we do not agree with Solicitor Stone’s decision to decline to prosecute the officers involved in Trey’s death, we understand that it is unusual for law enforcement to be prosecuted when a death occurs during the course of officers carrying out their duties.
More importantly, regardless of whether the officers involved are prosecuted or not, the Family’s grief from losing Trey does not change. The Pringle Family appreciates Solicitor Duffie Stone’s willingness to meet with the Family and personally share his reasons for declining to prosecute this case, as it demonstrates that he is aware of the impact that Trey’s death has made on the Family.
Anytime that a death occurs during an officer’s contact with the citizens that he/she is charged with protecting, whether it is the death of a citizen or an officer, there is cause for concern.
Trey’s death highlights the need for more officer training and better protocols to address situations where officers are called to assist in situations involving an individual who is suffering from mental illness. The Pringle Family will continue to make efforts to ensure that Trey Pringle’s legacy lives on.