CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – The State Law Enforcement Division (SLED) released a report on Friday regarding the death investigation of Elijah Weatherspoon, an 18-year-old who drowned while out boating with friends on June 25.
The investigation was referred to SLED after family and friends called for a “more thorough investigation,” claiming witnesses gave conflicting accounts of the moments leading up to his death.
Moreover, Weatherspoon’s family noted that he was the only person of color on the boat, and questioned whether that was a factor.
The investigation lasted over five months and produced a 561 page document.
SLED has determined that the death was not a homicide.
Scarlett Wilson, Ninth Judicial Circuit Solicitor, said that the report “clearly [shows] that Elijah Weatherspoon’s death is not a homicide.”
Wilson said that “numerous witnesses give consistent accounts of Weatherspoon’s entry into the water and the frantic attempts to save him from drowning. One witness even made heroic efforts to save Weatherspoon and risked his own life in doing so. Multiple witnesses from nearby boats confirm these efforts.”
Wilson emphasized that “there is no evidence indicating any sort of assaultive behavior led to Weatherspoon falling overboard and when he did, his companions and others attempted to rescue him.”
In a statement provided by SLED Friday, investigators say the 4-month long investigation involved interviewing nearly 40 witnesses, many of whom lived outside of South Carolina to ensure the facts and evidence of the case were obtained.
“The accidental death of anyone is a tragedy; especially when it is a young person,” said SLED Chief, Mark Keel. “I hope knowing the facts of what happened can help in the healing process for all those who knew and loved this young man. Our hearts go out to the Weatherspoon family for their loss.”
He went on to say, “While there were many rumors about what happened, our role is to uncover and report the facts of the case,” said Keel. “I want to thank the many responding agencies who helped SLED and DNR in this investigation.”