The pastor who was fatally shot by Lancaster County deputies at a store in May bought a gun that morning with the intention to kill his wife, her boyfriend and himself, according to documents provided Thursday by the State Law Enforcement Division.
Darrell Morgan, 60, was shot to death May 28 at the Carolina Corner store on U.S. 521 in Lancaster County. Police have said he confronted his estranged wife in the store, held her at gunpoint and waved the gun around in front of two responding deputies, who then shot him. The store owner and her 4-year-old son were inside at the time.
Through the Freedom of Information Act, The Herald obtained investigative documents after SLED formally closed the case. Both deputies involved in the shooting have been cleared.
Because deputies were involved, the sheriff’s office declined to comment or release details of the investigation. The documents released Thursday revealed new information about what led to the shooting and what happened at the scene.
According to the 25-page SLED narrative, which includes interviews with Morgan’s wife, her boyfriend and the shop owner who called 911, Morgan was upset about his 41-year marriage ending a week earlier and bought a 9mm pistol at a Rock Hill pawn shop the morning of May 28 with the intention of killing his wife, her boyfriend and himself.
Maj. Matt Shaw of the Lancaster County Sheriff’s Office heard the call just after 2 p.m. that day about an armed man ordering a woman to her knees, and after arriving at the store, he selected a team of deputies to approach the open door, according to the SLED report. He saw Morgan and his wife sitting at a table inside. Morgan told the deputies to “come on in” and motioned for them to enter.
Upon entering the building, Shaw saw Morgan raise his right hand from under the table and display a black semi-automatic handgun, which he “shook in what appeared to be a taunting or warning motion,” Shaw told investigators. Morgan’s wife was “crying and hysterical” and told Shaw to tell Morgan “that you are not going to hurt him.”
Shaw tried several times to get Morgan to put down the gun but he just shook his head, investigators said. Investigator Brad Whitesides entered and stood near Shaw. Morgan pulled the gun from under the table and began waving it again.
Morgan “had a blank look on his face and was showing no emotion” as he pointed the gun at his wife, Shaw said in his statement, adding that he believed Morgan was about to shoot his wife. Shaw fired his handgun at Morgan, and Whitesides fired his rifle “at almost the same time.”
Whitesides said in his statement that he grabbed Morgan’s wife, moved her behind a large piece of furniture and covered her with his body because it wasn’t clear whether Morgan still had his gun.
Morgan was taken to Springs Memorial Hospital in Lancaster, where he was pronounced dead. An autopsy revealed he had been shot eight times.
‘Please don’t do this’
Morgan was the pastor of New Harvest Freewill Baptist Church in the Lancaster County community of Tradesville. His wife told SLED investigators she moved into an apartment with her boyfriend after she and her husband separated the week before. She was shopping at Carolina Corner when Morgan showed up unexpectedly.
“She asked him what he was doing and he told her to turn around,” the report states. “When she asked why, (Darrell) Morgan pulled out a gun and stated, ‘This is why.’ He told her he wanted to kill her, her boyfriend and himself, and that if he couldn’t have her then no one could.”
Morgan’s wife said she tried to get him to put the gun away so they could leave, but he forced her into the store and to sit down at a table, investigators said. He instructed her to call their son; she put the phone on speaker and told their son what was happening.
Their son began quoting Scripture and screamed at his father, “Daddy, please don’t do this,” the report states. Morgan’s wife described to police how Morgan refused to put down the gun he had pointed at her chest and how shots rang out when he moved the gun.
“He was going to kill me if they hadn’t shot him,” she told investigators.
Morgan’s gun had three bullets in it, according to the report. His wife’s boyfriend was not at the store when the shooting happened.
‘Till death do us part’
Morgan was “not a violent man but was a strict one,” his wife told SLED investigators the day after the shooting. He was very “possessive” and would call her repeatedly and ask when she was coming home if she went to visit their son.
After Morgan became ill with diabetes, he “changed and became depressed” and his wife “did everything for him,” she wrote in her statement. His health continued to decline, and even when she tried to cook him healthy meals, he would sneak off and eat unhealthy food.
“He would tell her that they were married ‘till death to us part,’” the report states. “She felt trapped; her life became consumed by everything he wanted, and she wanted her own life.”
Investigators interviewed the woman’s boyfriend, who said he’d known the couple more than 40 years, had done work around their house and even started attending church with them recently. She told him that she and Morgan “were having problems and she was thinking about leaving him.”
Morgan threatened his wife’s boyfriend after finding out they were together, then called back and apologized, investigators say. Two days before the shooting, he confronted them at a restaurant but left when his wife told him to leave.
Solicitor: Shooting was justified
The May 28 shooting was the 22nd officer-involved shooting in South Carolina this year, according to SLED. Since then, that number has increased to 32.
Sixth Circuit Solicitor Randy Newman wrote in a July 20 letter to SLED that the facts of the case do not warrant criminal prosecution of the two deputies and recommended the case be closed.
Maj. Shaw has served Lancaster County since 2001 and is now the undersheriff and a public information officer for the agency. Whitesides, the investigator, has been with the sheriff’s office for 10 years.
“Mr. Morgan was a danger to himself, his wife, the shop owner and her son, and to the officers on the scene,” Newman wrote. “He exhibited an intention to cause serious bodily injury or death to all on the scene, and I concluded that Officers Shaw and Whitesides acted in compliance with the Lancaster County Sheriff’s Office policy and procedure and were justified in firing their service weapons at Darrell Morgan.”
The two officers were placed on administrative leave while SLED investigated, which is typical for officer-involved shootings. They returned to restricted duty July 8 and returned to full duty after the case was closed July 24, a department spokesman said Thursday.