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Officer who shot homeowner in June linked to 2017 shooting

August 1, 2019

GREENVILLE, S.C. (AP) — A sheriff’s deputy who shot and wounded a South Carolina homeowner through a window in June was also among several officers who fatally shot a man two years ago.

Greenville County Deputy Kevin Azzara and the others were cleared in the 2017 shooting of a man holding a pellet gun outside his home after an argument with his estranged wife. Azzara’s shooting of Dick Tench in June is still under investigation.

Officials refused to release the name of the officer who shot Tench, but The Greenville News got Azzara’s name from a letter sent by Greenville County prosecutors asking the state attorney general’s office to review the latest investigation into Azzara.

The letter did not say why Azzara’s most recent case was being moved. Greenville County prosecutors reviewed the 2017 shooting before clearing Azzara and the other deputies.

Azzara was investigating a medical alert call June 14 at a Simpsonville home when body camera footage shows him shine his flashlight through a narrow window beside Tench’s closed door, then shoot at the homeowner who was holding a gun in his foyer.

As Azzara gives Tench first aid, the homeowner says he had the gun for protection because he wasn’t sure whether his home was being broken in to after hearing noises just before midnight.

The sheriff’s office initially said the homeowner jerked open the door and pointed the gun at the officer. The agency released a statement after the body camera footage was released more than a month later saying a mistake was made by a sheriff’s office spokesman and Azzara never said Tench opened the door.

South Carolina Fraternal Order of Police lawyer Michael Laubshire is representing Azzara in the latest shooting. Laubshire didn’t talk about the shooting and asked the newspaper to stop trying to contact Azzara.

Azzara has been a police officer since 2008, spending his whole law enforcement career with Greenville County. He is on paid administrative duty while the latest shooting is investigated by the State Law Enforcement Division.

In the earlier shooting, Azzara was one of five deputies at another Simpsonville home in March 2017 when 50-year-old Joseph Inabinet was killed.

Azzara fired 10 rounds from a rifle and at least one bullet from his gun was removed from Inabinet, according to the State Law Enforcement Division’s report on the shooting.

Deputies were called to the home after Inabinet argued with his estranged wife and he was outside with a pellet gun saying he wanted to be killed by police, authorities said.

Azzara also fired shots at Inabinet’s home a year earlier, telling state agents he shot a dog at the home after it bit an officer, according to the SLED report.

Inabinet’s widow sued the sheriff’s office over the shooting and that lawsuit remains open.

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Information from: The Greenville News, http://www.greenvillenews.com

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