RICHLAND COUNTY, SC — The instant a bullet pounded into the vest of Richland County Sheriff’s Deputy Sheila Aull, she felt as if a bee had stung her.
In the moment, she thought maybe she had been grazed by the bullet as a domestic-assault suspect fired at her. Her instant reaction was anger.
“I felt like a pit bull on a chain,” Aull said. “I wanted to get the person who tried to hurt me.”
Aull spoke to the media Tuesday, a week after she was involved in a shootout with 24-year-old Adam Jurgen at the Farrington Apartments off Broad River Road in St. Andrews. Jurgen was killed by deputies at the scene.
Richland County Coroner Gary Watts said that Jurgen died from two shots to his right torso but that he also had been hit multiple times in his legs and buttocks.
The shooting death was a violent end to a domestic assault that began at a drugstore on the corner of Broad River and St. Andrews roads.
The 22-minute chase and shootout started around 1:30 p.m. Feb. 26 when a battered and bloodied woman flagged down Aull outside a drugstore on Broad River Road. The woman, whose face was bleeding in several places, said her boyfriend had beaten her at the drug store. The woman described Jurgen. Aull called for an ambulance and began looking for him.
Aull first found Jurgen standing behind two buses parked at a gas station across the road from the drugstore. She tried to hit him with her Taser but it malfunctioned. The chase began.
Aull, joined by dozens of officers from the sheriff’s department and three other agencies, chased Jurgen through a St. Andrews neighborhood. Police dogs also were in the hunt.
Aull was part of the entire pursuit, sometimes running and sometimes jumping into cars with other deputies. Jurgen shot at them twice before reaching the Farrington Apartments, where he hid inside one unit.
There, Aull and seven to 10 other deputies formed a perimeter around the apartment building and waited.
A woman came outside, and Aull ordered her to go back inside. But the woman told the officers the man they were searching for was in her apartment.
Suddenly, Jurgen dashed out a door and came running from behind a car. The gunman looked at Aull as he fired.
“He was shooting with his arm extended behind him with his hand turned sideways, gangster-style,” Aull said.
Even after feeling the sting through her vest, Aull stayed on her feet and returned fire along with the other deputies.
Once Jurgen went down, fellow cops began asking if she was OK.
“My chest was burning,” she said. “I had a couple of the deputies say, ‘Sheila, are you hit? Sheila, are you hit?’ I said, ‘I don’t know. It feels like a bee sting.’”
When Aull looked down she saw a small hole in her uniform. She immediately was surrounded by other officers who formed a protective circle around her. They stood with their backs to Aull and guns drawn in case someone else was with Jurgen.
“It was like having angels all around me,” she said, explaining she still gets chills thinking about it.
On Tuesday, Sheriff Leon Lott praised Aull’s actions. He credited the vest and the department’s training program for saving her life. She had completed her annual training on how to respond to a shooter the previous week.
“She ran after him from the first minute until the end,” Lott said. “She was there every step of the way.”
Aull was a reserve deputy for six years before joining the department full-time in 2008. Lott described her as a tough deputy who also can be gentle when the need arises.
“That’s what we look for in a deputy,” he said.
The State Law Enforcement Division is investigating the shooting, a requirement in all officer-involved shootings. Ballistics tests will determine whose bullets struck Jurgen, Lott said. It is likely at least one of them came from Aull’s gun, he said.
Aull returned to work on Friday. She also has undergone mandatory counseling with a sheriff’s department psychologist and sat through a counseling session with the other deputies involved in the shootout.
Aull is bothered by Jurgen’s death, but she said deputies had no other choice.
“I think about the family of the victim, and I pray for them. I’m sorry,” she said, pausing to cry. “But it had to be done.”
Reach Phillips at (803) 771-8307.