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U.S. Marshals cleared in Folsom shooting

Solicitor’s office releases decision

Posted: April 17, 2015 2:26 p.m.
Updated: April 20, 2015 1:00 a.m.
C-I file photo/

Joseph Glenn Folsom

Three U.S. Marshals have been cleared by the 5th Circuit Solicitor’s Office in the Dec. 5, 2014, shooting death of Joseph Glenn Folsom at his Blue Heron Lane home on Lake Wateree.

In a March 9 letter to S.C. State Law Enforcement Division (SLED) Special Agent Kevin Preston, Johnson concludes the Marshals’ decision to shoot Folsom was justified because Folsom had a shotgun he swung in their direction when they attempted to apprehend him. The marshals shot Folsom nine times. Six of those shots were fatal, according to Johnson’s letter.

In the letter, Johnson said he determined Deputy U.S. Marshals Jonathan Lorenzen, Eric Skinner and Christopher Monaghan all “acted in accordance with applicable state and federal laws” and “each Marshal’s use of force was reasonably necessary in light of all circumstances” gleaned from SLED’s investigation.

The solicitor’s office released the letter to the Chronicle-Independent on Thursday following several attempts during the last four months to learn more about Folsom’s death.

A federal jury convicted Folsom in early June 2014 on four counts of interstate transportation of stolen money. Prosecutors successfully proved Folsom, who lived in Kershaw County and had previously maintained an accounting office in Bishopville, stole approximately $585,000 from a deceased client’s estate. The jury found him guilty of using part of the money to purchase a number of classic cars in Florida and Georgia. Federal prosecutors also detailed Folsom’s use of the money to purchase real estate and an airplane, but for various reasons could not charge him with further crimes.

In October 2014, a U.S. District judge sentenced Folsom to a little more than four years in prison and ordered him to pay more than $514,000 in restitution. In a not-uncommon practice, marshals gave Folsom the opportunity to turn himself in on Dec. 2, 2014, for incarceration.

Folsom failed to do so, leading the federal judge to issue a Dec. 4, 2014, warrant for his arrest by U.S. Marshals. What reportedly happened the next morning is detailed in Johnson’s letter to SLED.

Lorenzen, Skinner, Monaghan and U.S. Marshals Rohn Morales and Michael Nelson met the agency’s Operation Intercept Fugitive Task Force Office. There, the marshals determined Folsom was at his Blue Heron Lane home. Prior to arriving at the residence, a marshal spoke with Folsom’s daughter, who told them her father was inside. Nelson called the home and a man answered the phone. Based on that information, Nelson told the other marshals a subject was inside the home.

In mid-January, when SLED confirmed it was investigating Folsom’s death, Kershaw County Chief Deputy Sheriff Marvin Brown said he had spoken to marshals after the Dec. 4, 2014, warrant was issued. He said marshals told him they planned to go to Blue Heron Lane around 9:30 a.m. Dec. 5. Johnson’s letter does not state exactly when marshals arrived at Folsom’s home, and Brown said marshals never contacted him that morning to join them.

Johnson’s letter indicates the marshals arrived all wearing tactical vests and raid gear clearly marked with “U.S. Marshals. Morales and Nelson went to the back of the home, while Skinner, Monaghan and Lorenzen went to the front entrance. The three marshals knocked on the front door, rang the doorbell and otherwise announced their presence and their possession of a warrant. They saw no movement inside nor did anyone answer them.

Morales and Nelson entered through a rear unlocked sliding glass door on the home’s basement level, triggering an alarm. No one inside the house responded to the alarm. Morales and Nelson cleared the basement and found another unlocked door leading to the main floor of the home. Morales radioed the other marshals, letting them know entry had been made; Nelson went to the front of the house.

Lorenzen, Skinner and Monaghan then went to the back of the home where they entered through the sliding glass door and went to the main floor with Morales. The four marshals began clearing the main floor and let Nelson inside.

While clearing the main floor, the marshals continuously announced themselves, stating “police” and “U.S. Marshals,” as well as “come out and surrender.” No one replied.

Once they cleared the main floor, all the marshals except Nelson headed upstairs. Nelson reported hearing what sounded like footsteps from the floor above him as the other marshals made their way up.

While clearing the upper level, marshals found a final room with a closed door. Morales opened the door and stepped back so the other marshals could enter. Skinner entered first with a ballistic shield, followed by Monaghan, then Lorenzen.

“Contact in the bed,” Skinner shouted, stepping towards the bed as Monaghan and Lorenzen moved to either side of the room.

They found Folsom lying in the bed with bed covers pulled up to his neck.

“My neck is broke,” Folsom told them as they entered the room.

Marshals ordered Folsom to show his hands, but they reported he would only show one hand at a time. At that point, Lorenzen pulled back the covers to reveal Folsom was holding a black shotgun pointed at his own chin.

Marshals repeatedly told Folsom to put the weapon down, but he refused and began to swing it in their direction, causing it to become tangled in the sheet. Marshals made “numerous attempts” to get Folsom to stop and put the weapon down. He continued to refuse, freed the weapon and continued pointing it in the marshals’ direction.

Fearing for their lives, according to Johnson’s account, Lorenzen, Skinner and Monghan all fired at Folsom as he continued to ignore their commands. “Mr. Folsom received multiple gunshot wounds and was pronounced dead at the scene,” Johnson wrote.

The next day, Dec. 6, 2014, Dr. Janice Ross performed an autopsy in Newberry. Johnson’s letter details her findings: Folsom received six fatal gunshot wounds to the head and chest, two graze wounds to the right shoulder blade and front of the neck, and a perforating gunshot wound to the right forearm. Ballistics confirmed a bullet fired from Monaghan’s Bushmaster AR-15 struck Folsom once in the head and that the other bullets were not fired from his weapon. However, ballistics could not determine which of the other bullets recovered from Folsom’s body were fired by Lorenzen or Skinner.

“The facts of the present case support a finding that the use of lethal force was applied in good faith based upon the perceptions of reasonably trained officers and the objectively reasonable facts the marshals had at the time of the incident,” Johnson wrote. “Based on the information in the investigative file … (including) the immediacy of the situation together with Joseph Folsom’s actions, the marshals were in fear, and lethal force was necessary to protect their own lives as well as the lives of fellow officers.”

Based on those findings, Johnson wrote, his office concluded there was no evidence of any criminal wrongdoing by the marshals and that their actions were legally justified.

Johnson concluded the letter by stating his office considers the matter closed.

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