CHARLESTON, SC (WCBD) — Following the deadly shooting downtown at Virginia’s on King the Count on 2 Investigators have been looking into the suspect’s past.
If you look up Thomas Burns on the Al Cannon Detention Center website, you’ll find 11 bookings—all with the same mugshot. Many have the same status of “Released”, except his current murder charge.
Burns is accused of entering his prior place of employment, Virigina’s on King, on August 24. Police say he shot and killed Chef Shane Whiddon and held another person hostage. Police eventually shot Burns and arrested him.
Former South Carolina Attorney General and now Criminal Defense Attorney Charlie Condon says Burns is a “career criminal”.
Condon remembers the first time burns was arrested back in 1983.
“He was prosecuted successfully for a horrible shooting of Reverend Capers that, as I recall, he ended up in a wheelchair, paralyzed, because of the crime.
Burns was sentenced to 25 years in prison. His record shows, however, once he got out of prison, his criminal behavior didn’t stop.
“There’s a pattern of criminal activity and arrests and disposition,” said Burns.
Burns was arrested for drug charges three times in a year starting in 2008. The charges were dropped. In some cases, the arresting officer did not show up to court.
A judge did convict Burns of Receiving Stolen Goods and Malicious Injury to Property in 2009, but he was given time served and a fine.
In November of 2009, Burns was arrested for Public Drunkenness. Five days later, he was charged with Public Disorderly Conduct. 14 days after that, another arrest for drugs–this time he’s convicted and sentenced to 2 years in jail.
An offender of nonviolent crimes could be eligible to be released from prison after serving a fourth of his or her sentence.
There is no parole for violent crimes. The violent offenders are required to serve 85% of his or her sentence. They can serve the other 15% on supervised release.
Thomas Burns was next arrested in May of 2011 for Armed Robbery with a Deadly Weapon and Assault and Battery 1st Degree. The case’s prosecutor says the case did not have a reliable witness and so the two parties came to a plea agreement. The court dropped the charge to Strong Armed Robbery and Assault and Battery 2nd Degree. Burns was sentenced to 8 years in prison.
“It isn’t necessarily for the benefit of the defendant that a bargain is reached. It may be the case that the most recent one being prosecuted was weak. So, the state got a really good deal at least knowing that he goes to prison for a period of time,” Condon said.
Burns served the 85% of that sentence. He was allowed on supervised release in January of 2015. After that, he was in and out of jail for nonviolent crimes. Officials say he was on probation for his most recent arrest for murder at Virigina’s on King.
State law enforcement is still investigating the Virginia’s on King shooting. They have not said where or how Burns may have acquired a gun.