Chris Thompson, left, the grandmother of Josiah Tate, is sworn in by Judge Alex Macaulay on Friday. She is sitting next to attorney Josh Allen in the Anderson County Courthouse. Josiah, 2, died in July 2012 after picking up a deputy’s loaded gun and shooting himself.
By Nikie Mayo of the Independent Mail
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The Anderson County Sheriff’s Office has agreed to a legal settlement with the family of Josiah Tate, the 2-year-old who fatally shot himself with a deputy’s gun in July 2012.
The terms of the settlement were not made public during court proceedings Friday, were not disclosed by lawyers and family members associated with the case, and had not been added to records at the Anderson County Courthouse as of 5 p.m. However, family members are expected to receive more in Friday’s “full and final settlement” of the case than they did in December, when they were given $100,000 to partly settle the wrongful-death claim brought against Jahwaun Blair, the deputy who resigned after the shooting. Josiah shot himself in the head on July 3, 2012, in the bedroom of a mobile home that he and his mother, Antwanneshea Sharmel Carson, shared with then-sheriff’s deputy Blair. Under investigation by the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division and internally by the sheriff’s office, Blair eventually resigned. He was never charged in Josiah’s death. Josiah’s grandmother, Chris Thompson, the representative of his estate, filed a lawsuit in January 2013 accusing the sheriff’s office and Blair of “gross negligence and recklessness” and of wrongful death. She said Friday that the settlement does not help the family recover from what happened. “It does nothing for us like that,” she said. “It does not bring Josiah back. It doesn’t help my daughter get over the death of her only child ? her only son. We’re doing the best we can to lean on each other and move forward, but when you wake up, it’s as fresh as the day it happened.” Anderson County Deputy Coroner Don McCown said during his investigation of Josiah’s death in 2012 that the toddler had wandered away from his mother for a few minutes, and when she found him, the boy was playing with a .38-caliber handgun that he picked up from a bedroom table. That gun was Blair’s backup weapon, issued to him by the Anderson County Sheriff’s Office. Blair was not at home or on duty at the time. Before Josiah’s mother could take the gun away from him, the boy pulled the trigger. He died a short time later at AnMed Health Medical Center. McCown ruled Josiah’s death an accident. Judge Alex Macaulay accepted the final settlement in the case during a brief hearing at the Anderson County Courthouse on Friday. Chuck Allen, an attorney for Josiah’s family, called the boy’s death “tragic and untimely.” His son, Josh Allen, who recently joined the Allen law firm, sat next to Josiah’s family, but did not speak in court. J. Victor McDade, an attorney for the sheriff’s office, said little Friday except that both sides of the case agreed to the settlement. Blair was not in court and neither was Anderson County Sheriff John Skipper. Josiah’s grandmother and his mother, Carson, bowed their heads slightly as the settlement was approved. Carson was Blair’s girlfriend. Josiah was not Blair’s son, but the toddler’s obituary identified Blair as his “surrogate father.” Reached after the hearing, Sheriff Skipper said he did not know the specifics of the settlement. “This is a tragic incident and nobody ever wished it would have happened,” Skipper said. “We rely on the South Carolina Insurance Reserve fund, who represents us, to decide how far to push in a case like this. But we can all agree that this is a tragedy.” The settlement came one day after another Upstate child’s discovery of a gun had fatal consequences. Alexandra Anita Santos, 22, of Easley died Thursday after she was accidentally shot by a 6-year-old boy who found a gun in the back seat of a car. Santos and the child were both passengers in the car, and the boy’s father was driving, according to Easley police. Jack Logan, founder of Put Down the Guns Now Young People, regularly hands out free gun locks in Upstate neighborhoods. He said the settlement and the unrelated shooting this week are reminders that people with firearms need to be vigilant. “Until this world can get guns out of the hands of people who should not be allowed to have them or own them, we are going to do the best we can to protect our young ones,” Logan said Friday. “But, unfortunately, we can’t prevent every heartbreak.”