Richland sheriff: Shooting of suspect ‘justifiable’

cwinston@thestate.comSeptember 17, 2013 

— For the third time in 2013, a Richland County sheriff’s deputy on Monday night shot and killed a suspect.

“It’s a bad pattern,” Sheriff Leon Lott said at a Tuesday news conference.

The Richland County Coroner’s Office has not positively identified the suspect, so his name has not been released. Lott described the suspect as a black male of unknown age.

Questions remained on Tuesday afternoon about the incident, which occurred after the suspect fled his car during a traffic stop and allegedly fired at a deputy, who then shot and killed him. The State Law Enforcement Division is continuing an investigation that will be handed off to the solicitor’s office.

Among the questions is how the suspect suffered a gunshot to the head from his own weapon. The shot, Lott said, was nonfatal and could have been suffered as the suspect tried to fire his weapon.

It was too early, Lott said, to determine whether the vehicle or the weapon were stolen.

There was also a small container of marijuana in the vehicle, police said.

But one thing Lott seemed certain of was that the shooting was “justifiable.”

Deputy John Parker, who is nearing his second year with the department after serving with the S.C. National Guard, was patrolling the roads along Decker Boulevard at about 10 p.m. Monday when he saw a driver in a vehicle acting suspiciously near businesses, according to Lott.

A run of the license plate returned a different vehicle, and Parker initiated a traffic stop.

After handing over a license, the driver sped away and continued down Faraway Drive to East Boundary Road, Lott said, when the car stalled and the suspect jumped out. Parker pursued him, planning to use a Taser to subdue him.

About 75 yards into a foot chase, and nearing woods in the backyards of a neighborhood, the suspect turned and fired on Parker, Lott said.

Parker returned fire and killed the suspect, the sheriff said.

Parker is on paid leave undergoing counseling. He can return when the Victims’ Services Unit determines he is ready, the department said. He will go first to light duty before returning to patrol.

It’s the third suspect shot and killed by Richland County deputies this year. Lott said the department was “very fortunate” that no deputies have been killed in the incidents. Two were uninjured and one was saved by a bulletproof vest.

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