COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - Columbia police officers shot and killed a suspect they believe shot an officer in the chest during a traffic stop early Wednesday morning in the Shandon neighborhood.
After an extensive search, Chief Randy Scott says the suspect, 22-year-old Blakely Jernigan of Columbia, was shot and killed by police near the intersection of Woodrow Street and Blossom Street.
Scott identified the officer who was wounded as Alexander S. Broder. The young officer had only been patrolling the streets for five days before being shot in the line of duty.
Broder and another officer were dispatched to the Shandon area around 4:50 a.m. after a citizen called 911 complaining about a suspicious vehicle in the area, according to the chief.
The officers made contact with Jernigan's vehicle and pulled him over near the intersection of King Street and Wilmot Avenue. Scott says Jernigan almost immediately shot Broder as the officer was approaching the suspect's vehicle. Broder was hit in the chest and the suspect fled the scene in a black SUV.
Broder's bulletproof vest stopped the bullet and he was taken to the hospital for treatment. Scott says Broder is doing fine.
"This just goes to show the protective gear works," said Scott. "The bulletproof vest absolutely saved his life."
Scott said officers located Jernigan later Wednesday morning at an apartment in the 2700 block of Blossom Street.
Negotiators had convinced Jernigan to come out of the home around 7:00 a.m., according to Scott, but the suspect opened fire on SWAT officers with an AK-47 rifle as he stepped out of the apartment.
"Unfortunately, this individual decided to take his fate into his own hands," said Scott. "And with an AK-47, shot at our SWAT officers who were there on the perimeter."
Officers returned fire and fatally wounded Jernigan, according to the chief. "My heart goes out to the family of the young man who decided to shoot at law enforcement," said Scott.
Richland County Coroner Gary Watts said, "The autopsy results are pending, but the suspect was shot after firing at Columbia police officers."
The Columbia Police Department and SLED's Bomb Squad Units said they found small, homemade devices on Jernigan. The unit rendered the devices safe, but they also found additional materials to make homemade explosives inside the residence.
Those materials, distribution amounts of marijuana and cocaine, and other guns found inside the home were removed and taken as evidence.
Jernigan was a 2007 AC Flora graduate and attended Clemson University from 2007-2009. Records show he was arrested and charged several drug violations and a gun charge in Pickens County in July of 2009.
At least one daycare in the area opened late because of the investigation. Police asked the child development center at Shandon Presbyterian Church to stay closed until 9:00 a.m., according to an assistant director there.
Hand Middle School opened as scheduled. Car riders were not affected, but buses did not drop students off on the King Street side of the school, according to a Richland One spokesperson.
Police still have some streets in the immediate area closed because of the investigation.
CPD has requested SLED's assistance to investigate the circumstances that led to suspect's death.
Officer Broder graduated from the South Carolina Criminal Justice Academy with 12 other City of Columbia recruits at the beginning of April. Scott says Broder is eager to "get back out on the streets and do his job to keep the community safe."
He was expected to be released from the hospital Wednesday afternoon.