WALHALLA - The Oconee County Sheriff's Office is grieving the first loss of an officer on duty its 142-year history.
Sheriff's Deputy William "Bill" Frederick Schuck III, 26, was found dead Sunday near the 6000 block of S.C. 11, near Walhalla following a search by Oconee sheriff's deputies. An autopsy performed Sunday morning at AnMed Health showed he died of asphyxiation.
He was found pinned between his patrol car and a tree, said Oconee County Coroner Karl Addis.
An official with his former employer, the West Columbia Police Department, said Schuck was "highly regarded" there.
Schuck, from Rabun Gap, Ga., was a certified S.C. law enforcement officer with previous experience as an officer with the West Columbia and Durham, N.C., police departments. He had recently joined the Oconee sheriff's office. He and his wife were planning to move to Oconee County.
According to Independent Mail coverage partner WSPA News Channel 7, Schuck's wife is pregnant.
"Bill was a remarkable, humble, intelligent young man," said Maj. Jackie Brothers with the West Columbia Police Department. "He was very highly regarded here."
How Schuck came to be with the Oconee sheriff's office, Brothers said, was more the story of a devoted young married couple chasing their dreams.
"Bill came to our department a few years ago," she said. "He came down from the Durham, N.C., Police Department because his wife was going to graduate school at USC. He followed her down here so she could pursue that degree."
Brother said Schuck was a patrol officer with the West Columbia police for about two years.
"When his wife was offered a job up in Clayton (Georgia) after graduating from USC, he didn't hesitate," Brothers said. "He wanted to do anything he could to help her pursue her dream."
Instead of spending time gaining certification as a Georgia Law Enforcement officer, Brothers suggested to Schuck that he seek a job in the Upstate.
"I told him since the Upstate was so close to Clayton, maybe he could just get a job in South Carolina," she said. "Not long after they moved, he was hired at the Oconee County Sheriff's Office."
Majors said the news of Schuck's death had stunned the West Columbia police force.
"I hope to have information on Bill's memorial," she said. "There are a lot of officers down here who will want to be there."
A preliminary investigation shows Schuck had been patrolling a private dirt road and had gotten out of his patrol car when it had become stuck. He was pinned when the car dislodged and started rolling.
Addis said Schuck's supervisor sent units to look for the deputy about 1:40 a.m. when he could not reach him by cell phone or radio. Schuck's wife told investigators she had called him about 1:30 a.m., just before he went off the air. She said he had told her that his car was stuck.
Addis said Schuck's death was an accident.
An official with the Oconee Sheriff's Office said Schuck's death was the first reported of an officer while in the line of duty. The S.C. Highway Patrol is investigating.
An official with the Oconee Sheriff's Office said the memorial service is pending arrangements being made with Schuck's family, many of whom live in North Carolina.