SIMPSONVILLE, S.C. —
Dick and Cindy Tench have filed a lawsuit in federal court, suing the Greenville County Sheriff’s Office and Kevin Azzara, the deputy that shot Dick Tench three times.
Under the representation of Greenville attorney, Beattie Ashmore, the Tenches demand a jury trial for the deputy-involved shooting that happened on June 14, 2019.
To read the complaint, click here.
Tench told sister station WYFF-TV he was asleep inside his home when Deputy Kevin Azzara responded to a medical panic alarm that had gone off inside the house, shortly before midnight.
When Tench went to see who was outside his home, Azzara fired through the home’s glass door panel, striking Tench in the chest, groin and back.
“(Azzara) was hiding behind a wall and shot me at a 45 degree angle,” Tench said. “That’s what happened. I’m laying on the ground with three bullet holes in me, dying.”
An investigation was launched by the South Carolina State Law Enforcement Division and Azzara was later cleared of any wrongdoing.
The lawsuit says that Tench has a concealed weapons permit, and while he thought there was an intruder inside his home and he did have a gun in his hand, he never raised it or pointed it at Azzara.
"Dick Tench still has a bullet in his hip that reminds him of the shooting every day," Tench's attorney, Beattie Ashmore, said. "Nothing has ever been done by Greenville County Sheriff's Office. The complaint alleges that this deputy was terminated his rookie year in New Jersey and unsuccessfully sued to get his job back. We further allege that he was then hired by GCSO and prior to shooting Dick he shot and killed three dogs and a person. The GCSO then lied about what happened by saying Dick opened the door and pointed a gun at the deputy. Thankfully the body camera video proves that Dick was shot in his own home through his front door window. Dick and Cindy want accountability and better training for local law enforcement."
An initial Facebook post by the Greenville County Sheriff’s Office stated that “Once the deputy (Azzara) arrived on scene, he went to the door and soon after was met by the homeowner who pulled the door open and pointed a handgun directly at the deputy. The deputy then fired his weapon, striking the subject (Tench) at least one time.”
However, the body camera video, released 45 days after the incident, contradicts the initial Facebook post. Tench is never seen opening the door. The Sheriff’s Office later retracted the statement.
According to the lawsuit, Azzara never identified himself as law enforcement prior and never activated the blue lights or siren on his vehicle while he was at the Tench’s house.
“I’ve never been a cop. I’ve never been around anybody who’s had to make those split-second decisions ... but it was a bad one,” Dick’s wife, Cindy Tench, said. “Within a half hour of kissing your spouse of nearly 40 years goodnight and the next thing you know he’s in the foyer bleeding to what we thought could have been his end … when you wake up to that ... you have no clue what’s going on.”
The lawsuit states that Tench carrying a gun inside his home, while investigating a nocturnal disturbance on his own property, should have been apparent to Azzara at the time of the shooting.
New evidence revealed in the lawsuit states that Azzara was terminated from his position at a police department in New Jersey before coming down to South Carolina. He was also involved in a separate deputy-involved shooting that killed a 50-year-old man.
Today, Tench walks with a cane. One of the bullets is still lodged in his groin — too deep to extract.
In addition to the federal lawsuit and amid a nationwide outcry for better policing, Dick and Cindy, too, are demanding more from law enforcement.
“People say they have a tough job and everything … And they do. But there’s also innocent people out there getting killed every day,” Dick said. “Every day getting killed by bad decisions. They need better vetting and better training.”
When reached for comment, the Greenville County Sheriff's Office said in a statement: "Consistent with the GCSO stance on pending litigation we will refrain from comment to protect the integrity of the case."