The mother of an Anderson man, who shot at deputies in October during a chase, says deputies should never have initiated the chase, and he’d still be alive today if they hadn’t.
Robert Maness, 39, had just left his brother’s house on his family’s motorcycle when two Anderson County Sheriff’s Office deputies attempted to pull him over.
The primary narrative in the incident reports says, “during the stop, Maness drove away and fired several shots at the deputies, striking the patrol vehicle that the two were occupying. Maness continued to shoot at deputies, which led the deputies to return fire.”
The timing of the gunfire has not been made clear. In a statement from October, the Sheriff’s Office said Maness did not stop and shot at deputies.
The use of “stop” in the report could also mean he attempted to stop but didn’t, said J.T. Foster, a spokesperson for the Sheriff’s Office.
The deputies returned fire, striking Maness twice in the back, causing him to crash, according to coroner Greg Shore and Foster.
Maness was taken to AnMed Health, where he died from two gunshot wounds to the back and blunt force trauma due to the shooting and vehicle collision, Shore said.
The South Carolina Law Enforcement Division is investigating the deputy involved shooting, which is typical for shootings involving officers.
The Independent Mail submitted in November a Freedom of Information Act request to get more information from the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division, which is investigating the shooting.
Rebecca Maness has filed a lawsuit based on the probable cause behind the traffic stop, the reason officers attempted to pull him over.
Maness did not stop “because he did not have any reason to be pulled over and feared for his life,” the lawsuit says.
The lawsuit says the high-speed pursuit was a violation of Sheriff’s Office guidelines for pursuits involving motorcycles and the Sheriff’s Office did not have policies to prevent the deputies from driving irresponsibly or if they did, they did not properly enforce those policies.
The lawsuit also says the deputies drove at an excessive speed that was out of control when they ran over Maness “after engaging on a wild west type shootout while driving down the road.”
Lawsuit claims deputies had no probable cause to pull Maness over
When the shooting happened, Rebecca Maness rushed to Airline Road, near her other son’s home, and found a number of police vehicles while she waited all night to learn more.
She knew her son had died but stayed at the road, refusing to leave the last pieces of evidence and his personal belongings, she said. By 8 a.m. the next morning she left to contest an autopsy report at the hospital.
When she returned to the road, the vehicles were gone and she said she found her son’s necklace, hat and glasses scattered on the side of the road.
“My concern is that they’re going to try to make it look like it’s his fault,” she said. Maness pointed to her son’s record, previous jail time and that he had heroin and fentanyl on him that night.
A background check through SLED, the state law enforcement agency, indicated Maness had a few dozen convictions from 2001 to 2017. His offenses included drug possession and unlawfully carrying weapons.
He had six previous convictions for not stopping for blue lights and four convictions for not complying with police or resisting arrest.
Maness said she knows her son didn’t stop for blue lights in the past, but he was never killed for it.
The lawsuit includes the Sheriff Office’s vehicle pursuit guidelines which say “pursuit of a motorcycle is only permitted when the suspect is believed to have been involved in a Class A felony and deadly force is authorized.”
Class A felonies are the most violent crimes in South Carolina’s classification system, such as voluntary manslaughter or attempted murder.
The lawsuit does not deny that Maness fired his gun at deputies, nor does it confirm the Sheriff’s Office account. The lawsuit emphasizes the deputies did not have probable cause to stop Maness.
“In the original incident report, it doesn’t say the reason for the stop,” said J.T. Foster, a spokesperson for the Sheriff’s Office. “Now, the supplemental report reflects more details, but as it stands right now, that’s what I can say. That’ll be part of the SLED investigative file.”
In South Carolina, when a deputy is involved in a shooting, SLED immediately begins investigating and limits access to information about case until the process is finished.
It was the second deputy-involved shooting in that October 2021 week for the Sheriff’s Office, according to SLED spokesman Tommy Crosby.
Cause of death reveals collision, mother says he was dragged
Maness’ oldest son called her after the shooting because he heard gunshots since Maness had just left his home after showing him the gun he was planning on selling, she said.
Rebecca Maness said her son’s medical report indicated he was shot in the back, run over and dragged down the road.
“Even if they justified shooting him, how do you justify him being drove up the road,” she said.
Shore said he could not comment on allegations about Maness being dragged due to SLED’s investigation.
Shore said when Maness was shot, he fell off his motorcycle.
“Cause of death was gunshot wound to the back and blunt force trauma due to — shot by others and motor vehicle pedestrian collision, so it was a combination,” Shore said.
When deputy coroner Brett Simpson arrived, Maness was already loaded by paramedics into the ambulance but at some point he had been under the front bumper of the patrol car, Shore said.
Sheriff’s deputies had pulled him out from under the car before paramedics treated him there but Shore said he didn’t believe the car drove over Maness.
The coroner’s death investigation report is also attached to the lawsuit and indicates Maness was ejected from his motorcycle and struck by a motor vehicle, which caused the blunt chest trauma.
The latest on the lawsuit, investigation
Besides fishing and hunting, Maness loved playing with his 2-year-old and 6 year-old children and taking them to the zoo, his mom said.
“He was awesome,” Maness’ mom said. “He’s being missed by a lot of people right now.”
Matthew G. Davis and Kenneth D. Lollis as well as Sheriff Chad McBride and the Anderson County Sheriff’s Office are named in the suit.
Davis resigned in January, records indicate. Foster, the Sheriff’s Office spokesman, said he could not confirm why Davis resigned.
The SLED investigation is still ongoing as the lawsuit was recently filed.
The Sheriff’s Office has not submitted a formal response to the lawsuit.
Sarah Sheridan is the community reporter in Anderson. She’d appreciate your help telling important stories; reach her at [email protected] or on twitter @saralinasher.