Lethal Force

Jermaine Massey was having a mental health breakdown when he called 911 to ask authorities to remove him from his home. “I’m trying to do the right thing right now before I snap out and stress out and hurt anybody,” Massey told the dispatcher over the phone. Deputies found him in his back yard, holding a knife to his chest. He was unresponsive to deputy instructions to drop the knife. About 20 minutes later, four deputies fired 11 rounds at Massey, killing him in his backyard in the Poe Mill community. Tiffany Copeland, his then fiance, and their children are now left to continue their lives without the man who meant so much to them. The “Lethal Force” series digs through 10 years of case files, examines training, the law, the human cost for families like Tiffany’s and for law enforcement officers.

Greenville County Sheriff’s Department officers investigate the scene of an officer-involved shooting near Poe Mill on Monday, March 19, 2018. Published Monday, Sept. 30, 2019. Jermaine Massey called 911 for help after experiencing a mental health breakdown. He was shot by deputies while pacing back and forth in his backyard while holding a knife.
Jekeriah Massey, 8, cries as her aunt, Tamika Gordon, reads a poem she wrote for her father, Jermaine Massey, during a vigil for him outside of his home on Wednesday, March 21, 2018. Published Monday, Sept. 30, 2019.
A law enforcement officer undergoing training at the South Carolina Criminal Justice Academy participates in scenario exercise on Thursday, Dec. 6, 2018. Published Monday, Sept. 30, 2019.
Law enforcement officers in training observe their classmates participate in a scenario exercise at the South Carolina Criminal Justice Academy on Thursday, Dec. 6, 2018. Many of the academy’s training scenarios are based on previous incidents in an attempt to teach officers on how to better respond to similar situations in the future. Published Monday, Sept. 30, 2019.
Greenville based human rights activist Efia Nwangaza writes “black lives matter” on poster paper as she prepares for a protest against police brutality at the Malcolm X Center for Self Determination in Greenville on Monday, Oct. 22, 2018. Published Monday, Sept. 30, 2019.
Family and loved ones of Jermaine Massey pray after a press conference addressing the Greenville County Sheriff’s Office to address mental illness training on Tuesday, April 3, 2018. Published Monday, Sept. 30, 2019.
Jermier Massey, 6, son of Jermaine Massey, holds a cross with his father’s name and photograph on it during a protest march against police brutality outside of the law enforcement center on Monday, Oct. 22, 2018.
Greenville Police honor guard member Andrew Hamilton holds a vase containing a rose during memorial service honoring fallen Greenville County law enforcement officers at the Law Enforcement Center Tuesday, May 21, 2019. Published Monday, Sept. 30, 2019.
Lt. David Weiner of the Greenville County Sheriff’s Office poses for a portrait Thursday, Sept. 26, 2019. Weiner has been involved in multiple lethal force situations. “It’s the last thing any of us want to do. I promise you.” “Why me?” is a question that he said he has struggled with, especially working alongside so many other deputies in similar roles who have never had to fire at someone.
Tiffany Copeland holds her daughter Jenilya as she blows out the candles on her cake for her third birthday party at Big Air Trampoline Park on Saturday, Dec. 15, 2018. Published Monday, Sept. 30, 2019.
Tiffany Copeland reads a book with her son, Jermier, 6, and daughter Jenilya, 3, inside her home Monday, Dec. 17, 2018. Copeland says the loss of Jermaine Massey has had a devastating impact on her family, especially for Jermier, who witnessed the shooting of his father. Published Monday, Sept. 30, 2019.