Shooting deaths should not have happened


My wife of 31 years is the daughter of the former Pickens High football coach Bill Isaacs, who was shot and killed Sept. 14, 2015, while out for his morning walk. Dickie Stewart, a longtime friend and neighbor of Bill’s, was also shot and killed as he came to Bill’s aid by the man who confessed to a deputy at the time of his arrest.

News outlets reported that the murders arose from an ongoing feud. Those reports came from the initial press release by the Pickens County Sheriff’s Department regarding the murders. Those reports were false. The press release also indicated that the police had no reason to believe that the feud could escalate to a homicide. That, likewise, is false. If there was a feud, which there was not, the feud itself was evidence that there was a risk that the feud would escalate.

As I stated at Bill’s Celebration of Life ceremony at Bruce Field, these tragedies did not result from a feud. Bill’s neighborhood had been terrorized for over a year at the time of his murder. He filed police reports which went uninvestigated or were minimally investigated in the opinion of the families. Others called on additional incidents. The man arrested and charged with murder … terrorized retired educators.

Bill and his wife reported multiple incidents to Pickens County Sheriff’s Office. Their cars were shot, and they found bullet holes in the siding of their home and around their windows. Since Bill’s passing, 14 bullet holes have been discovered in their roof.

In the families opinion, shouldn’t the investigation … have been more thorough than what appeared to be the mere taking of a report? Please understand that this course of criminal conduct had been ongoing for more than a year before the shooting took place.

By December 2014, it was apparent that a renter in the neighborhood, who was arrested and charged with murder of a neighbor before, and who had been charged with assault and battery multiple times, including charges within four years of Bill and Dickie’s murder, was the suspected perpetrator.

Should this story have had a better ending than the one that was written? It should have, had Bill’s complaints been taken seriously. They were not.

We all firmly believe that had the policies and procedures in place at the Pickens County Sheriff’s Office been rigorously followed, Bill and Dickie would be alive today. Instead, the entire community now mourns their loss.

The county deserves better and I know that the fine people of Pickens County will stand up and demand both answers and change. You are entitled to no less.

Some will say that this letter is politically motivated. I assure you that any words or actions by our families come purely for the love and loss of two great men. However, the circumstances that led to these two deaths shine a bright light on the failures of the law enforcement leadership in our county.

I know that Dickie and Bill would want you all to know the truth about the circumstances leading to their deaths, so that you can make a fair and educated choice in the coming days. We need for the motto “Protect and Serve” to mean something.

Harvey Gantt

Charlotte, N.C.

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