Sheriff: Suspect was hit twice by deputy, once from his own gun - - Columbia, South Carolina |

Sheriff: Suspect was hit twice by deputy, once from his own gun

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The scene near the shooting. The scene near the shooting.
Sheriff Lott speaks to the media Tuesday. Sheriff Lott speaks to the media Tuesday.

For the third time in seven months, the Richland County Sheriff's Department has been involved in a deadly officer-involved shooting.

Sheriff Leon Lott says his deputy acted appropriately after a man who was running from the officer started shooting late Monday night near East Boundary Road and Faraway Drive.

Lott said Tuesday that deputy John Parker was justified in shooting and killing the suspect, who has yet to be identified by the coroner's office.

"We were shot at, that's why we shot back," said Lott during an afternoon news conference at sheriff's department headquarters.

Parker, who has been with the department for almost two years, was on routine patrol when encountered a vehicle driving suspiciously in the area of Woodfield Park near Decker Boulevard, the sheriff said.

Parker ran the vehicle's tag on his on-board computer and discovered the license plate did not belong to the car. At that point, the deputy pulled the suspect over.

Just after Parker approached the vehicle, the suspect drove away. Parker got into his cruiser and pursued the suspect with the cruiser's blue lights on. During the pursuit, the suspect jumped out of the moving car because it was having mechanical problems and started to run.

Parker chased the man on foot for a short distance to the backyard of a residence. It's then, according to Lott, that the suspect began shooting at the deputy.

"Initially as he was chasing the subject, he [the deputy] had his Taser out," said Lott. "And then when the guy shot at him, that's when he dropped his Taser and pulled his weapon out."

Parker returned fire and hit the suspect twice. Lott said the suspect also received a gunshot wound to the head from his own revolver.

Lott said investigators may never know how or why the suspect was hit by a bullet from his own gun. "It may have been that as he was shooting at our deputy and he got shot maybe simultaneously and the gun jerked and hit him in his head. We just don't know."

The suspect died at the scene. Lott said he still had the gun in his hand.

"The wound that actually killed him was the shot from our deputy," Lott said.

Nobody else was injured.

"Why he ran, we have no idea," said Lott, who indicated the man was carrying a small container with some marijuana in it during the foot chase. "It [the container] was a large enough, in my opinion, that he was selling it," Lott said.

Video from the cruiser shows the chase, but not the shooting. That's because the gunfight happened approximately 75 yards from where the vehicles stopped.

Investigators on the scene determined the suspect fired two rounds from his gun. The deputy fired at least twice, the sheriff said.

"It looks like a very justifiable shooting," said Lott.

The Richland County Sheriff's Department has been involved in two other instances in 2013 where suspects have fired upon deputies.

The first happened in February near Broad River Road and St. Andrews Road. Deputy Sheila Aull's life was saved by a bulletproof vest when she was shot by Adam Jurgen during a gunfight. Jurgen, who had allegedly punched a woman in the face before shooting at deputies on patrol in the area, died in that incident.

In July, 34-year-old Kong Nay exchanged gunfire with deputies at the intersection of Broad River Road and Kennerly Road following a chase after a gas station robbery. Nay was killed during that gunfight.

"We have a bad pattern. Almost every three months now that we're having our deputies shot at and then we're having to return fire," said Lott. "I think this illustrates the violence that we've got in our community and just how dangerous it is for our deputies and law enforcement in general to be out here doing their job."

SLED will investigate the circumstances surrounding the incident and forward their findings to the Fifth Circuit Solicitor's Office who will determine if the shooting was justified.

Lott said deputy Parker is undergoing counseling and will return to duty when he is ready. Parker was an active duty member of the South Carolina National Guard before joining the sheriff's department in December, 2012.

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