SC 'hero' deputy shot in the face

Charleston County Deputy Jeffrey DeGrow was calm, collected on radio tape despite wounds

Post and Courier

CHARLESTON, S.C. — As well-wishers from police departments across the region filled her father's hospital room Friday afternoon, Sydney DeGrow, 9, slipped quietly across the hall and sat down with a magenta sparkle pen and a notebook.

The day before, a burglary suspect had shot her dad, Charleston County Deputy Jeffrey DeGrow, in the head and arm. One bullet went through part of his eye and was still lodged in his skull.

Sydney has blond hair and freckles on her nose. She loves to write, and in a corner of a waiting room, she sat at a table and let the words tumble out.

"Have you ever heard of a hero? Like Superman or batman? Well my dad is a hero! Let me tell you what happened," she wrote.

Her story would be a simple one.

"The first reason why he is a hero," she scribbled, "is because he got shot five times and he is so brave that he did not give up because I know he loves us so much. He is so brave! And I'm also happy that God was looking over him and because God is also a hero! I am just so happy that he is still alive so I can spend time with him. I will never forget him! I will always be by his side! Nothing will get in between me and my dad."

As she wrote, Sydney's grandfather, Dave DeGrow, stood nearby.

Dave is from Michigan. His son grew up there, too, but didn't like the cold. "He said, 'If I'm going to be a cop, I don't want to investigate traffic accidents in 20-below wind chill factor."

About a decade ago, his son began looking for law enforcement work in Charleston, eventually landing a job with the Mount Pleasant Police Department and then taking a job with the Charleston County Sheriff's Office two years later. In addition to a daughter, DeGrow also has a 14-year-old son.

Anyone with family in law enforcement worries about getting "the call," and Dave's phone rang 11:15 a.m. Thursday with the news about his son.

"You always think it will happen to someone else," he said. Then the phone rings and your knees turn to rubber. He caught the first plane he could to Charleston.

It wasn't until Friday, after doctors reconstructed DeGrow's eye and treated other wounds, that Dave heard from his son about what happened the day before.

DeGrow said he was responding to a burglary report off Grimball Road on James Island when he spotted three men. They ran away, and he chased one around a trailer. He pulled out his Taser, but a bullet hit him in the eye. He fell to the ground, and one of the suspects emptied his gun at point-blank range. "It's a miracle he's alive," Dave said.

He said his son somehow got on his radio and told a dispatcher that he'd been shot, and that he'd try to get somewhere so they could find him more quickly.

"Everybody talks about how calm and collected he was, and when they found him, he was standing by his cruiser," he said.

Dave said his son grew depressed a day after the shooting. "There was a little bit of woulda, coulda, shoulda, and he was worried about whether he would still be able to be in law enforcement, which he loves." But then the hospital room at Medical University Hospital began to fill with colleagues on the SWAT Team and from other departments. Jeffrey's pastor visited him. Sheriff Al Cannon reassured him that he'd always have a job in his department. Then his father walked in and read Sydney's letter.

"I am just so happy that he is alive!" she ended the letter. "I love my dad so much and I also love God. He is the best. As you can see I am so happy for my dad and I am thankful for God looking over him!" When Dave finished, Sydney gave her father a hug, and he held her tight.

Brandon Simmons, 21, was being held without bail on a charge of assault and battery with intent to kill in the shooting. His brother, Theodore Simmons, 20, and a cousin, Curtis Williams, 20, are charged with misprision of a felony. Meanwhile, Jeffrey was back home from the hospital Monday, and his father said he's doing well, though doctors plan to leave the bullet in his brain until the swelling goes down. Dave said his son went to church Sunday and sent word to the person who shot him that he had forgiven him.

A tape released Monday by the Charleston County Sheriff's Office describes how Deputy Jeffrey DeGrow radioed for help after he was shot in the head and arm Thursday on James Island.

The tape begins with DeGrow notifying dispatchers, "County, I've got three running, I don't know if it's involved in the burglaries or not."

A moment later, DeGrow radios: "I'm hit and down. I need EMS (Emergency Medical Services) ASAP." A dispatcher then radios for backup. "Shots fired," she says. DeGrow, breathing hard, radios his location ("I'm next to a white trailer") and gives a description of the shooter: "Black male suspect, black jacket, black jeans, low cut with a goatee. I'm trying to make my way out to the road now. I need EMS ASAP."

The tape ends with DeGrow saying, "I got a head wound and an arm wound. I know that for sure. I can't see out of my right eye."

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