COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - The Richland County Sheriff's Department and the Richland County Coroner's Office say the Texas man who was killed as law enforcement officials were getting ready to serve a warrant on him turned a gun on himself.
The suspect, identified by investigators as Damon James, was being served a murder warrant in connection with the 2014 death of his girlfriend in Houston when he opened fire on agents from the US Marshals service and the Columbia Police Department. Agents found him working on a vehicle in the parking lot of the Byron Road Apartments when they attempted to serve the warrant.
Sheriff Leon Lott said as the agents approached James, he first attempted to run, but returned to his vehicle to get a handgun.
James, Lott said, was struck by several bullets fired by law enforcement officers in retaliation before he got into a car and ultimately ended his own life just before noon on Monday on Byron Road.
"This was a very dangerous individual. He had already killed someone in Texas," Lott said. "He had traveled here to the Columbia area when officers confronted him he chose to shoot it out with officers and we believe at some point he took his life inside the vehicle."
James was taken to a local hospital where he was pronounced dead. Coroner Gary Watts said James may have died from the gunshot wounds he sustained, but the self-inflicted gunshot to his head was the fatal shot.
The sheriff's department is now in charge of the investigation.
"When you do go after these bad guys, they are bad guys," Lott said. "They are not going to hesitate to shoot. They've already committed some serious crimes, so they already have it in their mind that, 'I'm not going to be taken alive,' and at that point we're forced to make decisions where we have to shoot."
Kelvin Washington with the US Marshals office said they're still working to figure out why James was in the Columbia area in the first place. The deadly shooting of James' girlfriend occurred in October 2014 at the Sunswept Townhomes Apartments on Thicket Green Lane in Houston.
Two nearby schools, Meadowfield Elementary School and Hammond School, were on modified lock down for a short time as a precaution.
Woodhill Family Dentistry is right on the periphery of where the area was roped off earlier. Employees there say the last time they remember seeing police presence like this was a couple years ago across the street on the other side for a similar case.
"I heard two at first, and then right after that it was about four more," one employee said. "And it kinda sounded like it was outside, not really in a building because it was really loud."