CLOVER, S.C. – A 70-year-old man reaching for his cane was shot by a deputy in York County, according to the sheriff’s office.
It happened during a traffic stop Tuesday evening on Highway 321 at Mosteller Street, just north of Clover.
"A customer opened the door to come in, and you could hear the shots," said Joe Ashwell.
Ashwell works at Pop Pops Pizza on Highway 321 and says he saw Bobby Dean Canipe speed by, and Deputy Terrence Knox go after him. He then witnessed all the commotion that followed, getting information from officers coming in to use the bathroom.
During a Tuesday press conference, the sheriff’s office said Deputy Knox pulled over Canipe for an expired license plate on his white pickup truck. Police say Canipe got out of his vehicle, despite Deputy Knox telling him not to. Canipe then reached for his cane. Deputy Knox feared he was reaching for a weapon, according to investigators.
"The driver of the vehicle, 70-year-old Bobby Dean Canipe of Lincolnton, exited the vehicle and reached into the truck bed, and rose what Deputy Knox perceived to be a long barreled weapon," said York County Sheriff's Office spokesman Trent Faris.
The sheriff's office says in the dark, Knox believed he had to make a split second, life or death decision. He fired several shots at Canipe, hitting him once. Deputy Knox called for help, and then gave first aid to Canipe.
"The officer told us he was up there trying to keep the blood inside him -- and real shook [sic] up about it, and screaming on his radio needing help," said Ashwell.
Paramedics transported Canipe, who was traveling back from the Daytona 500 with his girlfriend, to CMC in Charlotte for a gunshot wound. The girlfriend's daughter-in-law tells NBC Charlotte Canipe was hit in the lung, and he needs the cane to walk. He is expected to recover.
Deputy Knox was not hurt during the incident.
Deputy Knox has been with the department for three years. He is now on paid leave. The York County Sheriff's Office says Knox followed procedure for a situation like this.
"The situation is very unfortunate. It does appear at this time that Deputy Knox's actions were an appropriate response to what he believed to be an imminent threat to his life," said Faris.
Ashwell says it’s sad for both families, but understands officers needing to protect themselves.
"It's disturbing. It happened so close, but it just goes to show the times we live in," said Ashwell.
As is protocol in an officer-involved shooting, the state's Law Enforcement Division arrived to take over the investigation.
“It’s very serious. Of course it is unfortunate. That is why we are taking every effort right now, to get this investigated properly," said Faris.
Deputies closed off one direction of traffic following the incident to gather evidence and speak with nearby residents.