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South Carolina: Two Women Drown in Sheriff’s Transport Van, Deputies Charged

by Scott Grammer

Nicolette Green, 43, and Wendy Newton, 45, were not criminals. On September 18, 2018, Newton was suffering symptoms from her schizophrenia while Green had sought help from a clinic. Because doctors had ordered emergency mental health care for both women, South Carolina law required that law enforcement officers transport them to a hospital. 

Green and Newton were locked inside a steel cage in the back of a transport van, and Horry County Sheriff’s Deputies Stephen William Flood and Joshua Bishop drove them toward McLeod Hospital – straight into the floodwaters of Hurricane Florence.

The deputies’ supervisors had warned them of the floodwaters, and told them of a safe way around them, but not only did they ignore the warnings and alternate route, they bypassed a barricade in the road and drove through a National Guard checkpoint. The Guardsmen had been ordered to allow law enforcement around their barriers.

As the deputies drove through the deepening water that covered the road, the van stalled and was swept into a guardrail. They got out of the vehicle safely, but did not have a key to open the locked cage. Bishop reportedly tried to shoot the locks off, without success. A washout formed in the road and the van, with the two women trapped inside, sank into it. Their bodies were recovered the next day.

Deputies Flood and Bishop were fired; in January 2019, they were arrested and charged with two counts of involuntary manslaughter, which carries up to a five-year prison term. Flood, the driver, also was charged with reckless homicide. He was released on $30,000 bond, while Bishop was freed on $10,000 bond.

Donnela Green-Johnson wanted to know what her sister’s last words were. “I hope in court we hear those because you know [the deputies] heard them.... I want to know what their last words were. I think Nikki’s children deserve to know what their mother was thinking of because I know that’s what she was thinking of, she was thinking of her kids.”

The criminal charges remain pending; on April 8, 2019, a judge found probable cause to allow the case against the deputies to proceed. 

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Sources: postandcourier.com, usatoday.com, wmbfnews.com