He stopped short Wednesday afternoon of calling it “justified” — but York County Sheriff Bruce Bryant publicly came to the defense of one of his deputies who shot a 70-year-old man the night of February 25.
That night, Deputy Terrance Knox shot Bobby Canipe, 70, during a traffic stop on U.S. 321 in the Clover community. Within hours of the shooting, word of the circumstances of the shooting were floating in cyberspace and the York County Sheriff’s Office confirmed the events the next day:
Canipe exited his pickup truck stopped on the side of the highway; reaching for a walking cane in an attempt to approach Deputy Knox’s vehicle. But as Canipe brought his cane under his right arm, Knox mistook the long black object for a shotgun that was pointing in his direction.,
Bryant confirmed Wednesday Knox fired “several” shots from his service weapon before realizing the object was a cane. Knox ran to render aid to Canipe while the female passenger in his truck slowly came forward to help.
The entire ordeal took place in seconds — seconds that the York County Sheriff’s Office, internal affairs and the State Law Enforcement Division have been reviewing for weeks now.
“The question is: At the time this officer pulled that trigger, did he feel like his life was in danger?” Bryant said. “I can say this: Any reasonable officer would have felt that way.
State investigators’ findings will be sent to 16th Circuit Solicitor Kevin Brackett’s office for view following the SLED investigation.
Bryant, a former SLED agent with 42 years’ experience, said this incident puts a spotlight on an issue he intends to address with the General Assembly: The lack of any laws on how a citizen should act in a traffic stop and the lack of any direction in state drivers’ handbooks.
“One of the things that you do not do — you do not exit the vehicle and go meet the police officer — you do not do that,” Bryant said. “You can, but there’s no law against it. That’s the sad part.”
If there ever were a bit of levity in the situation — it came within seconds of Canipe taking a bullet to the stomach. As Knox rendered first aid, Canipe blurted in a relaxed manner mixed with southern drawl, “I’ll be alright,” before the passenger in his truck exclaimed, “No you ain’t!”
Canipe was released from Carolinas Medical Center last week while Knox remains on administrative leave pending the results of the SLED investigation.