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Thanksgiving gathering turns deadly

A Thanksgiving gathering in northern Beaufort County turned into a gun battle which led to the death of a Florida man, Beaufort County Sheriff P.J. Tanner said.

James Piotrowski, 42, of Stuart, Fla., died shortly after he was shot by a security guard at the Brays Island Drive home of Richard and Carolyn Santee, Piotrowski's aunt and uncle.

Brays Island is a gated community in Sheldon.

The dead man's uncle was shot at least once by Piotrowski, Tanner said. His condition Thursday night was not known.

The shooting occurred shortly after midnight, Thursday morning, after most of gathered family and friends had retired to bed.

The two men began to argue, prompting Santee to get a long-barreled revolver from a closet in his bedroom, Tanner said.

What happened next is not clear.

People staying in the home told investigators they heard gunshots and called Brays Island Plantation security before calling 911.

The first to arrive on the scene was an unnamed Brays Island Plantation security officer. After getting no response from knocking on the door and ringing the bell, the security officer looked through a window and saw a man standing in the foyer, pointing a gun at another man, who was slumped at the base of a staircase.

The man inside the home raised the gun and fired, hitting the man on the staircase, who investigators later confirmed was Santee, Tanner said.

The security officer opened the front door, which was unlocked, and shot the man holding the gun, later confirmed to be Piotrowski, Tanner said.

"The officer - who was working in the same capacity as a normal law enforcement officer - was confronted with a situation in which he had to act quickly," Tanner said.

In all, five shots were fired, including the shot from the security guard. Tanner would not say who fired first.

An autopsy on Piotrowski will be performed at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston, deputy coroner David Ott said.

The Sheriff's Office is investigating and had not filed charges in connection to the shooting as of Thursday evening,Tanner said.

He said investigators are not releasing the security guard's name pending the investigation, which also includes the S.C. Law Enforcement Division because of the security guard's involvement.

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