A standoff and hostage taking at a Richland County residence ended Thursday afternoon after a suspect in a Newberry County murder investigation committed suicide.
Two of four suspects from a July 29 killing in the Little Mountain area of Newberry County were arrested earlier at different locations, the Newberry County Sheriff’s Office said. When investigators approached a third at 1212 Cactus Ave., between Piney Grove and Broad River roads in northwest Richland County, he barricaded himself inside. Following a standoff, he committed suicide by shooting himself in the head.
He said he didn’t want to go back to jail.
Richland County Sheriff’s Department Lt. Curtis Wilson
Richland County Coroner Gary Watts identified the third suspect as 21-year-old Keon Omari Kelly. The suspects arrested are Jermaz James Dreher and Tyler Mckenzie Elkins. The fourth suspect remains at large.
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Kelly lived at the Cactus Avenue residence, the Richland County Sheriff’s Department said. Investigators arrived at 11:30 a.m., and the standoff began as Kelly held his brother hostage. Richland County Sheriff’s Department Lt. Curtis Wilson said Kelly let his brother leave after negotiators arrived but remained inside alone.
Negotiations continued until Kelly cut off contact. Officers continued to attempt contact with Kelly, which included help from his family members and girlfriend, but there was no response, deputies said. Tear gas was shot into the residence, and officers entered around 4 p.m., finding Kelly upstairs with a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.
“He said he didn’t want to go back to jail,” said Wilson, who added the Newberry County Sheriff’s Department is still trying to determine if there was a connection between the suspects and the Little Mountain victims, or if it was a random robbery.
Dreher, a 16 year old from Chapin, is being held in a juvenile detention facility but has been charged as an adult, according to the Newberry sheriff’s office. Elkins, a 21 year old from Columbia, is being held at the Newberry County Detention Center.
They are suspects involved in a fatal home invasion on the morning of July 29 that left one man dead. Newberry County Coroner Craig Newton said Ronnion Danyell Byron, 32, died from a single gunshot wound to the head.
Newberry County Sheriff Lee Foster said deputies responded to Byron’s residence on Ponderosa Lane in Little Mountain, near the Lexington County line, at 12:15 a.m. in reference to a home invasion call. When deputies arrived, they found Byron dead inside.
Foster said further investigation revealed that Byron and another person were inside the home when they heard a knock at the door. When Byron pulled back a curtain from the door’s window, a suspect shot him through the glass. The second occupant of the residence ran to the rear of the home and hid between a mattress and a wall. The individual told deputies he could hear additional gunshots and suspects ransacking the home.
As the suspects began to leave, two other residents returned to the home after a trip to Chapin, Foster said. The suspects blocked their vehicle on Ponderosa Lane and began firing shots at them. The survivors were able to flee to a nearby residence uninjured.
Dreher and Elkins are charged with murder, conspiracy, four counts of armed robbery and kidnapping in addition to three counts of attempted murder and possession of a weapon during a violent crime. No bond hearing date has been set.
Harrison Cahill contributed.