FLORENCE, S.C. (AP) — A police officer was killed and six of his comrades were wounded when authorities said an elderly man began shooting at deputies who came to serve a search warrant, barricading himself in his home with children and spraying bullets across his upscale suburban neighborhood.
The sheriff’s armored personnel carrier was brought in to recover the wounded during Wednesday’s two-hour standoff, and the shooter finally released the children as he was taken into custody, authorities said.
“Officers went there unknowing the firepower the suspect had,” Florence County Sheriff Kenney Boone said at a news conference.
“Fire was being shot all over. The way this suspect was positioned, his view of fire was several hundred yards. So he had an advantage. The officers couldn’t get to the ones who were down.”
Authorities identified the shooter as Frederick Hopkins, 74, a disabled Vietnam veteran and disbarred lawyer who has faced several charges in recent years, starting with a 2014 count of disorderly conduct.
The violence stunned people already dealing with record flooding from Hurricane Florence. Both the sheriff and police chief cried as they spoke to reporters after the standoff.
The slain officer, Terrence Carraway, 52, of Darlington, had just been honored for his 30 years of service with the Florence Police Department.
“I want you to pray for the family who lost the bravest police officer I have ever known,” said his chief, Allen Heidler.
WIS-TV reported Thursday that Florence County Chief Deputy Glenn Kirby identified the suspect Thursday as 74-year-old Fred Hopkins. Kirby said Hopkins was hospitalized with a head injury and unable to speak with officers. WPDE-TV reports Hopkins fell at the scene.
Kirby also said that the search warrant involved an accusation that a 27-year-old person at the home sexually assaulted a foster child who lives in the home. Three Florence County deputies had come to serve the warrant around 4 p.m. Wednesday, Boone said.
The suspect ultimately shot four Florence city police officers, one fatally, as officers from all over swarmed in to help, Heidler said.
Boone credited his department’s military equipment for enabling them to pull the wounded from the field of fire.
“Thanks to our MRAP, armored personnel carrier, we made sure all the officers that were shot were protected and brought for medical atttention,” he said.
Officials refused to say why they were serving a warrant. They did not name the suspect. They also did not identify the wounded officers or describe their conditions.
Condolences and outpourings of support rolled in.
President Donald Trump tweeted his “thoughts and prayers,” saying “We are forever grateful for what our Law Enforcement Officers do 24/7/365.”
“This is simply devastating news from Florence,” Gov. Henry McMaster tweeted. “The selfless acts of bravery from the men and women in law enforcement is real, just like the power of prayer is real.”
Thom Berry, spokesman for the State Law Enforcement Division, said the agency had sent crime scene technicians to assist officials in Florence but at this time had not been requested to help with any investigation.
Boone said investigators from Richland County would help. He did not say why he wasn’t using state police like most law enforcement agencies do in officer shootings in South Carolina.
Authorities said the shootings happened in Vintage Place, an upscale neighborhood in the western part of the city.
Bobby Goin stood outside waiting for police to let him back to his home, where his wife and granddaughter could hear the gunshots.
“Surprised is probably an understatement,” said Goin, who has lived in the neighborhood for 20 years. “The worst thing that goes on around here is that someone runs a stop sign and it gets posted on Facebook.”
This is the second shooting of multiple police officers in South Carolina this year. In January, a 47-year-old former banker shot four officers in York County, killing one, after his wife called 911 to report he beat her. Christian McCall pleaded guilty and was sentenced to life without parole.
Florence, a city in South Carolina’s northeastern corner home to roughly 37,000, sits at the convergence of Interstates 95 and 20. It’s the largest city in the region known as the Pee Dee, where flooding from Hurricane Florence devastated areas to the east and south.