After North Charleston Patrolman David Winslette yelled over his police radio, “Help … I’ve been shot,” he relayed a basic description of his assailant and where the gunman was heading.
The shooter was a man with a goatee and dreadlocks. He carried a black semiautomatic pistol as he ran from the El Cheapo gas station down Dorchester Road and under the Interstate 26 overpass. In less than an hour, detectives got surveillance images of the gunman and distributed printouts to officers.
But it wasn’t until eight hours after the 3 a.m. shooting when police officials publicly confirmed that an officer had been shot and the gunman was still on the loose. A spokesman for North Charleston Police Department said officials waited until “we were able to get specific, accurate information.”
Legislation approved recently by the SC Legislature, however, would create a “Blue Alert” system to more promptly inform police agencies and residents when an officer is seriously injured, killed or kidnapped in the line of duty. Though many of the details haven’t been ironed out, the system likely would be modeled after “AMBER Alerts” in which the public is told about missing children through electronic message boards, emails and text messages.
The SC House and Senate passed the bill unanimously last week. Rep. Eddie Tallon, its primary sponsor and a retired agent with the State Law Enforcement Division, said it’s expected to be greeted warmly by Gov. Nikki Haley.
South Carolina would be the 12th state to adopt the system, he said.
“If someone has already shot a police officer, he would have no regard for citizens either; he feels life is worthless,” said Tallon, a Spartanburg Republican. “The sooner they get the information out, the sooner they’ll get this person off the street.”