A cry for help pierced the morning air.
Then came the gunshots.
Five bullets hit Zachary D’Avanzo. One lodged in his brain. He died within moments.
“That’s what happens,” shouted a man.
A neighbor in the Ladson area of Berkeley County gave that account of the August shooting.
But another story would emerge. A woman said D’Avanzo had her husband in a headlock, so she shot the 23-year-old.
D’Avanzo’s family, though, has cast doubt on the self-defense story.
When they looked at police reports months later, the family grew more concerned that authorities were too quick to endorse the account before gathering other witness statements and evidence that might have contradicted it. The paperwork said investigators hadn’t planned on the day of the shooting to pursue charges because the couple’s statements about the killing appeared to be consistent.
“I was told repeatedly to be rest-assured that they were doing everything to investigate this,” his mother, Andrea Watson, said. “Being a trusting person, I believed them.”
As self-defense accounts in shootings throughout South Carolina continue to emerge, authorities’ handling of the