Solicitor: No Charges for SMC Cop in Campus Break-In Shooting

SPARTANBURG (March 11, 2016) – The Eighth Judicial Circuit Solicitor last week officially declared the shooting death of a former Fairfield Central High School student last November on the campus of Spartanburg Methodist College (SMC) justified and announced that no charges would be filed against the SMC Campus Police officer who fired the fatal shots.

Delvin Tyrell Simmons, 20, a 2014 graduate of Fairfield Central High School and a student at Limestone College in Gaffney, was shot and killed on the campus of SMC by a campus police officer on the night of Nov. 9 while driving away from the scene where, the report states, Simmons had been observed breaking into a vehicle.

“There is no question that this incident is a tragedy for all parties involved and affected, particularly for the family of the deceased,” Eighth Circuit Solicitor David M. Stumbo wrote in his March 2 report to the S.C. State Law Enforcement Division (SLED). “Nevertheless, it is our firm opinion that Officer (Andrew B.) Tomlinson was justified under the circumstances in discharging his service weapon during this incident.”

Spartanburg County Coroner Rusty Clevenger ruled Simmons’s death a homicide and the shooting was investigated by SLED. SLED’s findings were reviewed by Solicitor Stumbo. Both officers involved in the incident were placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation.

SMC security camera footage showed Simmons breaking into vehicles in the upper parking lot of Sparrow Hall on the night of Nov. 9, Stumbo’s report states, and the stolen items were located inside the car in which Simmons was later killed, a Ford Crown Victoria.

No video surveillance footage was available of the shooting, Stumbo wrote in his report, because of the location of the shooting in relation to the position of surveillance cameras on campus. There was also no dash-cam footage, as officers were not in the vicinity of their patrol cars at the time of the shooting. The officers were also not equipped with body cameras, the report noted.

There were, however, multiple witnesses to the incident whose statements were consistent with Tomlinson’s statement and corroborated by the physical evidence found at the scene, Stumbo’s report states.

According to the reports, witnesses had spotted Simmons and a second suspect, later identified as Oliver Mylik Chandler, 20, of Darlington, breaking into a Jeep Cherokee and placing items from the Jeep into the trunk of a Ford Crown Victoria at approximately 8:45 p.m. When SMC officers Tomlinson and Justin Yarborough arrived at the scene, both suspects fled on foot. Chandler was later apprehended by officer Yarborough while officer Tomlinson remained with the Crown Vic.

A short time later, Simmons returned to the Crown Vic, got in behind the wheel and backed the car out of its parking space. Tomlinson stepped in front of the car, raised his hands in the air and ordered Simmons to stop. But, according to multiple witnesses, Simmons instead accelerated the Crown Vic, driving straight toward officer Tomlinson who attempted to get out of the path of the car. According to the report, just before the car struck him, Tomlinson  fired four times into the front of the vehicle as he continued to move backwards and to his right.  The vehicle brushed Tomlinson on his left side, and he injured his right knee trying to get out of the way. The Crown Vic came to a standstill after crashing into two cars parked in the lot.

An autopsy revealed that two of the gunshots struck Simmons in the head, killing him instantly. The toxicology report showed that Simmons tested positive for marijuana as well as the antidepressant Trazodone, the SLED report states.

Chandler, whose last known address was, according to the SLED report, 8045 Howard St., Spartanburg, was charged with car-breaking and larceny. According to Stumbo, Chandler later confessed to the break-ins and implicated Simmons in the crime as well.

Spartanburg County Sheriff Chuck Wright said last November that evidence found in the Crown Victoria Simmons was driving connected Simmons and Chandler to auto break-ins on the campus of Gardner-Webb University in Boiling Springs, N.C., about 40 minutes from the SMC campus. Wright said Gardner-Webb police confirmed that clothing they noted on men breaking into vehicles through surveillance video was the same clothing found inside the car of Simmons.

Investigators allege that Simmons and Chandler broke into several cars on the campus of Gardner-Webb University on Nov. 2 and then used a debit card stolen from one of the vehicles multiple times in Gaffney the next day, running up charges of more than $308.

“Based on all of the facts and circumstances available at this time, it is our legal opinion that Officer Tomlinson discharged his service weapon out of a legitimate and reasonable concern for his own life and safety,” Stumbo wrote. “Because there is no evidence of criminal intent we are closing our review of this case.”