Sheriff's office, deputy sued by family of toddler shot to death - FOX Carolina 21

Sheriff's office, deputy sued by family of toddler shot to death

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Investigators comb the scene of a shooting that killed a toddler in Anderson County. (July 3, 2012/FOX Carolina) Investigators comb the scene of a shooting that killed a toddler in Anderson County. (July 3, 2012/FOX Carolina)
ANDERSON, SC (FOX Carolina) -

The Anderson County Sheriff's Office and a former deputy are being named in a wrongful death lawsuit filed last week.

The case comes from the family of a toddler who died after the Anderson Coroner's Office said Josiah Tate, 2, accidentally shot himself with an off-duty Anderson County deputy's gun back in July.

The Anderson County Coroner's Office said it happened in the boy's home that he shared with his mother and her then boyfriend and former deputy Jahwaun Blair. 

The coroner said Blair had left his .38-caliber handgun issued by the sheriff's office on a piece of furniture when he was not at home. The coroner said Josiah got a hold of it and pulled the trigger before his mother was able to get it away from him. The coroner's office ruled Josiah's death as accidental.

FOX Carolina spoke with Anderson County Sheriff John Skipper Saturday night. The sheriff said he did not see the lawsuit coming. He told FOX Carolina he hasn't gotten a chance to actually look at the lawsuit itself but said the officer involved already resigned on Jan 7. Skipper said the lawsuit is now under the care of the county attorney.

Josiah's grandmother Chris Thompson is suing Blair and the sheriff's office for gross negligence.

FOX was able to speak with the family attorney Chuck Allen Saturday, who said the child's mother has also consented to this lawsuit.

"The family is devastated by the loss of their child, just absolutely devastated as most can understand," said Allen. "This child was 30 months old. It's just heart wrenching, obviously heart breaking experience for them."

Allen said the sheriff's office is responsible even though the deputy was off duty, and the incident happened at his home.

"It's simply under the theory of negligence, employer and employee liability," said Allen. "He was an agent of the Anderson County Sheriff's Office at the time."

The family is seeking damages which have not been named, but their attorney said this case was filed for the purpose of seeking accountability for what happened.

"Justice has not really occurred yet," said Allen. "Hopefully through this case that will be accomplished."

South Carolina Law Enforcement did investigate the shooting last summer because it involved a deputy and weapon that belonged to the sheriff's Office. FOX Carolina wasn't able to reach them Saturday for comment on the incident; it's not clear if their investigation is closed or if criminal charges could be pending on Blair.  

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