Suspect shot to death during warrant service attempt
A man was fatally shot by a Lexington County deputy while officers tried to serve arrest warrants on him Tuesday, according to Lexington County Sheriff Jay Koon.
The shooting happened just after 8:30 a.m. Tuesday when officers from the warrant task force – which includes sheriff’s deputies from Lexington and Richland counties, the Columbia Police Department and the U.S. Marshals Service – went to a home just south of I-20, between Gilbert and Pelion, Koon said. There, they encountered the man outside a Seleta Circle home.
“After a short foot pursuit, (during) which the suspect was making threatening statements to our officers, an encounter ended with our deputy shooting the suspect,” Koon said. He did not offer details about the encounter.
Thom Berry of the State Law Enforcement Division said he didn’t know if the man was armed. SLED is investigating the shooting. The deputy was placed on leave, according to sheriff’s department spokeswoman Colby Gallagher.
Paramedics responded and rendered aid to the man, who was later pronounced dead, Koon said. Lexington County Coroner Margaret Fisher identified the deceased as John Bittle, 39, of Lexington.
This was not the first time Lexington County deputies had contact with Bittle, Koon said. He was involved in a March 30 police chase that began in the Edmund area and ended when the chase went into Aiken County.
“Within the last week, we have received statements that the suspect has made, stating that he was not going to go back to jail and if he encountered law enforcement, he was going to take some down with him,” Koon said.
“It’s an unfortunate situation. Our hearts go out to the family. But unfortunately, in the course of us doing business, we encounter people that don’t want to go back to jail, and these things happen.”
There have been 20 officer-involved shootings so far this year in South Carolina, compared with 14 at the same time last year. This is the second this year involving a Lexington County deputy.