Columbia, South Carolina —- Acting United States Attorney M. Rhett Dehart announced today that William Bernard Wright, a/k/a “Willie” Wright, a/k/a “Quentin Mitchell,” 28, of Gaffney has been sentenced to more than eight years in federal prison, bringing resolution to federal and state criminal cases against Wright for the shooting of a South Carolina Highway Patrolman in 2019.
On Tuesday, April 13, 2021, United States District Judge Mary Geiger Lewis sentenced Wright to 98 months in federal prison, to be followed by the statutory maximum of 36 months of court-ordered supervision, following a conviction for felon in possession of a firearm and ammunition. Wright’s 98-month federal sentence represents the statutory maximum of 10 years with credit for 22 months’ time served on the state sentence for the same conduct, as provided for in the federal sentencing guidelines.
On December 9, 2020, Wright was sentenced to 35 years in state prison, following convictions in the state court system on four charges: attempted murder, possession of a weapon during a violent crime, possession of a weapon by a convicted violent felon, and failure to stop for blue lights.
Wright will serve the federal sentence concurrent to the state sentence.
“Law enforcement officers risk their lives daily to protect and serve our communities,” said Acting U.S. Attorney DeHart. “We will bring the full force of justice against anyone who attempts to take the life of a law enforcement officer in South Carolina. The resolution in these cases could not have been possible without the incredible partnership between the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the 16th Circuit Solicitor’s Office, ATF, SLED, and South Carolina Highway Patrol.”
“This case highlights the dangers our dedicated men and women in law enforcement face every day, and we are grateful for the collaborative process that helps bring to justice those responsible for such senseless crimes,” said ATF Special Agent in Charge Vince Pallozzi. “We applaud Trooper Wise’s bravery and recovery.”
”This officer-involved shooting underscores the sacrifice of serving and the dangers our law enforcement face on the job each day,” said Colonel Chris Williamson, Commander of the South Carolina Highway Patrol. “The South Carolina Highway Patrol commends the decisive and brave actions of Trooper Paul Wise when he was fired upon during this incident. The department is grateful to the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the 16th Circuit Solicitor’s Office for their commitment to seeing justice served in this case.”
Evidence presented to the U.S. District Court showed that on June 2, 2019, Wright was in possession of a FN Herstal, model Five-Seven, semi-automatic pistol and 5.7 x 28mm ammunition at a time he was prohibited under federal law from possessing a firearm or ammunition based on numerous prior felony convictions. At approximately 8:00 PM on that day, Trooper Paul Wise with the South Carolina Highway Patrol was on routine patrol in York County when he observed Wright operating a vehicle without a seatbelt. When Trooper Wise attempted to initiate a traffic stop, Wright fled and failed to stop for blue lights. Wright took the trooper on a car chase before bringing his car to a stop at the end a dead of a road. Wright then exited his vehicle, drew the firearm, pointed it at close range towards the patrolman’s front windshield. Wright then discharged at least 12 rounds at Trooper Wise. Trooper Wise was struck in his ballistic vest in the chest area and sustained other injuries to the right side of his neck. As Wright began to flee, Trooper Wise exited his vehicle, returned fire, striking Wright, ordered Wright to the ground, and then called for backup.
Evidence presented also indicated Wright had numerous convictions prior to the shooting of Trooper Wise, to include pointing and presenting a firearm (2007); assault and battery (2008); discharging a firearm within city limits and unlawful carry of a pistol (2008); resisting arrest (2011); attempted murder, attempted armed robbery, and criminal conspiracy (2013); and assault and battery – second degree (2017). Evidence presented in court indicated Wright had only been out of custody from a prior conviction for about 10 months, and that he had a history of criminal acts or misconduct while in custody and while on supervision.
The case was investigated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), the South Carolina State Law Enforcement Division (SLED) and the South Carolina Highway Patrol. Assistant United States Attorney Elliott B. Daniels prosecuted the federal case. Deputy Solicitor Willy Thompson prosecuted the state case.
The case was prosecuted as part of the joint federal, state, and local Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN), the centerpiece of the Department of Justice’s violent crime reduction efforts. PSN is an evidence-based program proven to be effective at reducing violent crime. Through PSN, a broad spectrum of stakeholders work together to identify the most pressing violent crime problems in the community and develop comprehensive solutions to address them. As part of this strategy, PSN focuses enforcement efforts on the most violent offenders and partners with locally based prevention and reentry programs for lasting reductions in crime.