COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - A Richland County deputy is receiving praise from her department after she was able to de-escalate a situation involving a man with a gun, without ever pulling her weapon. “I thought this could take a really bad turn, and I was thinking that the worst-case scenario that you never want to happen could possibly happen,” said Deputy Sarah Merriman.
This all happened on November 19th, after Merriman was dispatched to a home along Gloria Trail for a report of a man who had assaulted his wife and mother-in-law and pulled a gun. “I couldn’t see the gun until I got to the front of my car, and that’s when our training tells us when we see a weapon, we immediately want to get that weapon away from that person, which is why I began the verbal command,” said Merriman.
In the body camera footage, you can hear Merriman asking the man to put down the long gun by his side, and the man responds asking her to shoot him. The deputy’s hands remain in the air as she tells him she is there to help. “She’s dealing with a crime, but she’s dealing with a person in crisis at the same time,” said Sheriff Leon Lott. “She would have been very justified in taking her gun out, but that’s what he wanted her to do, and she realized that.”
After nearly five minutes, Merriman convinced the man to surrender. “Looking back on, it’s a lot, and I know as soon as I had him in handcuffs, I had that adrenaline dump so to speak, and you can feel it in your body physically,” she explained.
The second-year deputy says this is the most scared she’s ever been, but she felt her voice was a better tool than her gun. “I think it’s a testament to my training that I was able to handle it this way,” she explained. “I’ve dealt with more calls where I’ve either solved the issue or temporarily fixed the issue by talking to people than I ever have by using force or a weapon.”
Sheriff Lott believes if Merriman had pulled out her gun, the man would have raised his gun at her, forcing her to shoot him. “I think the narrative when people see what she did is so much different than what we hear about law enforcement, that sometimes law enforcement is ready to pull the gun and shoot very quickly, and you saw her not do that, even though she was being begged to do that, said Sheriff Lott.
Merriman encourages anyone with one perception of law enforcement to get involved with their local department or participate in a ride-along. “You’ll realize there’s more to being a police officer than just weapons,” she noted.
While Merriman was brave and acted in accordance with her training, Sheriff Lott says he knows there are officers who abuse the use of force policy, and he says they are held accountable.
The two injured women were transported to the hospital, and the man was arrested and charged with domestic violence of a high and aggravated nature and assault and battery of a high and aggravated nature.