Off-Duty Cop Charged With Murder After Allegedly Shooting Driver Fleeing From Fight

A South Carolina police officer was charged with murder Wednesday in the fatal shooting of a man who authorities said was trying to drive away after the two fought outside a Chick-fil-A restaurant in Summerville.

Summerville police Officer Anthony DeLustro, 64, was off-duty on March 20 when he shot 39-year-old Michael O’Neal in the parking lot after a physical confrontation between the men, the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED) said in a news release Wednesday.

Witnesses said DeLustro started the fight, according to an arrest warrant attached to the SLED news release.

“Do you want to do this?” O’Neal said several times to DeLustro, a witness told investigators, according to the warrant. He responded by saying, “Come on,” addressing O’Neal with a gay slur.

Michael O’Neal, 39, was fatally shot on March 20 by an off-duty police officer after the two fought in a Chick-fil-A parking lot in Summerville, South Carolina, authorities said.
Michael O’Neal, 39, was fatally shot on March 20 by an off-duty police officer after the two fought in a Chick-fil-A parking lot in Summerville, South Carolina, authorities said. Michael O’Neal via Facebook

Both men got out of their cars and exchanged kicks and punches as bystanders tried to intervene, the warrant states.

It is unclear what provoked the fight.

DeLustro then told O’Neal he was under arrest and showed him his police credentials, SLED said. During the scuffle, DeLustro’s handgun fell from its holster to the ground. When O’Neal said he was leaving and headed to his car, witnesses said, DeLustro threatened to shoot him.

DeLustro’s wife, who reportedly had tried to restrain O’Neal during the fight, also attempted to block him from getting in his car, witnesses said. DeLustro picked up his handgun and got into the passenger side of O’Neal’s car and shot him as O’Neal tried to drive away, according to the warrant. Berkeley County Coroner Darnell Hartwell said the bullet entered O’Neal’s right arm and traveled to his chest, killing him, South Carolina news station WCSC reported.

DeLustro told investigators that he acted in self-defense, the warrant states, and shot O’Neal because he thought his legs were trapped under the moving car. Witness accounts and bystander video do not corroborate DeLustro’s claims that he feared for the safety of his wife and the community, investigators said. In an interview after the shooting, DeLustro allegedlyacknowledged that he knew O’Neal was trying to leave and that he never saw him with a weapon or heard him threaten to use one.

DeLustro was an officer for the New York Police Department from 1980 to 2003, when he retired before a review board investigated a complaint against him, the Post and Courier in Charleston reported. He had been cleared of two previous misconduct accusations.

In a video call from jail Wednesday night, DeLustro told a judge that he had dedicated his life to public service and was at ground zero on Sept. 11, 2001, after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City, WCSC reported. He did not address the shooting but asked the judge for “mercy” so he could help his wife in raising their two granddaughters, whose mother died in 2021.

In a GoFundMe campaign to raise money for his parents, O’Neal’s cousin, Amy Nail, said that his father had been a police officer in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, for more than 30 years.

“This is a family that has a great deal of respect for law enforcement in general, yet is fully aware that no profession is free of bad actors,” she wrote.

Solicitor Scarlett Wilson, whose 9th Judicial Circuit office will be prosecuting the case, said in a statement Wednesday that her “thoughts and prayers” were with O’Neal’s family and praised witnesses for coming forward. 

“This is a very difficult time for them, but they have acted and reacted with dignity and grace,” Wilson said about the O’Neal family. “We are grateful for their extreme patience, understanding and cooperation with us. Likewise, SLED’s investigation could not have been as thorough or productive without the involvement of the community. Eyewitness cooperation has been vital.”

DeLustro is being held without bond in the Berkeley County Detention Center. No date has been set for his next court hearing.