By Andrew Knapp
A Colleton County man shot his cousin after warning the relative not to eat his salt and vinegar potato chips, sheriff’s deputies said Wednesday.
Ryan Dean Langdale, 19, now faces charges of attempted murder, using a firearm in a violent crime and obstructing justice in the critical wounding of his 17-year-old cousin.
The Colleton County Sheriff’s Office said Langdale reported the Sept. 29 incident at his home on Hudson Mill Road in Ruffin as an accidental shooting. The rural area is 60 miles west of Charleston.
He told deputies that his cousin had accidentally shot himself by dropping a hunting rifle while cleaning it, the agency said in a statement.
The cousin confirmed the account in a brief statement to deputies before being rushed into life-saving surgery and eventually to a Charleston-area hospital for more treatment.
But the evidence didn’t line up with that story, sheriff’s Maj. J.W. Chapman said.
“We knew from the beginning that something wasn’t right,” he said. “The more we looked into it, the more it seemed odd.”
The pathway the bullet had taken through the victim’s chest was “impossible” if the victim had mistakenly shot himself, Chapman said.
And when the victim woke up a week later at Trident Medical Center in North Charleston, he told investigators potato chips were at the center of a dispute that prompted Langdale to purposefully shoot him, Chapman said.
“Do not touch my chips, or I’ll shoot you,” Langdale said, according to the victim’s account in a sheriff’s incident report.
Langdale went into a back room, fetched a rifle and pointed it at the victim, the report alleged.
“The next thing he knew,” the document added, “the rifle went off.”
Unlike the early account, the potato chip story fit the evidence, sheriff’s officials said. They said the suspect had urged the victim not to tell the authorities what actually happened.
Investigators also found out Langdale had switched the rifle used in the shooting with another to cover up his involvement, they allege.
The detectives found the gun when they searched Langdale’s home Monday. He surrendered Wednesday morning, and a judge later set his bail at $55,000.
Salt and vinegar chips, Chapman added, are not a rare commodity in Colleton County, and the victim insisted that he never actually ate them.