Richland County Sheriff says deputies justified in killing suspect

ccope@thestate.comJuly 19, 2013 

Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott said that his deputies acted bravely Thursday evening.


— Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott said his deputies acted bravely when they shot and killed a suspect during a shootout on Broad River Road on Thursday.

The deputies were conscious of targeting just the 34-year-old man, whose identity has not yet been released.

The area was busy with people in nearby stores and traveling on the street when the incident unfolded near the Fatz Cafe and Walgreens around 7 p.m., Lott said.

“It is very fortunate that no one was injured except for the bad guy,” Lott said, citing deputies’ training.

The deputies only fired when they were fired upon, Lott said.

“There is no doubt that they were very justified in what they were doing last night,” he said.

The suspect, who lived in the Broad River Road area, used a 9mm pistol and a Nissan Titan truck he had stolen from a Harbison area home the day before, Lott said.

Lott said the incident unfolded this way:

The suspect went into a convenience store near the 4000 block of Broad River Road and demanded gas from the person behind the counter but said he did not have money. He pulled up his shirt and revealed the pistol and told them to turn the pump on and went out to the gas pumps.

The people inside notified the Richland County Sheriff’s Department. The suspect returned and pointed at his gun, but the people inside the store had locked the door, so he went back to his truck and drove off. When deputies arrived, the person who worked at the store pointed out the truck.

Deputies recognized the truck in the chase as the one that had been stolen, Lott said.

The truck ran a vehicle off the road then hit a mailbox near Fatz Cafe and spun out and was parallel to Broad River Road, Lott said.

Deputies got out and gave verbal commands, but the suspect never responded. He rolled the window down and started shooting at deputies, Lott said. He stopped shooting and they gave verbal commands again, but he ducked down so they couldn’t see him, Lott said.

Then he raised back up and started shooting again.

After the third time he shot at the deputies, he was fatally shot, Lott said.

His bullets struck one patrol car at least four times and another patrol car at least once, Lott said.

Lott said he counted 14 shell casings in the stolen truck and 17 rounds were fired. The shooter also stole magazines when he stole the gun, but Lott said they did not know if he reloaded or not.

“He was prepared to do whatever he could, evidently,” Lott said.

The suspect had a previous record for burglary, assault on a government official in North Carolina and disorderly conduct. About two months ago, Richland County sheriff’s deputies also assisted his family in trying to have him committed for a mental health issue but in the end was not committed, Lott said.

Reach Cope at 803-771-8657

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