Columbia, SC (WLTX) - Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott says a suspect killed in a shootout with his officers Thursday night had a history of mental and criminal problems.
Lott updated the public Friday afternoon about a violent chain of events that took place early Thursday evening along Broad River Road.
"I'm very fortunate that I'm standing here today not talking about having some deputies killed or even some citizens," Lott said.
Lott did not give the name of the suspect, because the person's next of kin have not been notified.
According to Lott, the situation actually began Wednesday night, when the suspect broke into a home in the Harbison area. Lott says the suspect stole a 9 mm handgun, as well as four fully loaded magazines, and took a pickup truck in the driveway.
Around 7 p.m. Thursday night, officers say the suspect walked into a gas station in the 4400 block of Broad River Road and said he needed $40 worth of gas, but had no money to pay. The clerks told him they could give him $5 worth, and when he heard that, officers say he pulled up his shirt, showed the pistol, and asked for the pump to be turned on.
While the suspect went out to the car, the employees called deputies and locked the door. When the suspect tried to come back inside, he pointed a gun at the door, then got in the truck and drove off, Lott said.
Officers caught up with the suspect, and pursued him down Broad River Road. The truck eventually spun out and crashed at the intersection of Broad River and Kennerly Road.
Lott says his officers asked the man to get out of the car and surrender, but he never responded. Instead, Lott says the suspect rolled down his window and started shooting at deputies.
Officers returned fire and then gave more verbal commands. Lott says the suspect fired again, and officers fired back a second time. Finally, the suspect shot at them a third time, and on the return volley, the gunfire hit the suspect, killing him.
During the firefight, one of the bullets ricocheted and hit an officer's boot, but that person was not hurt.
Sheriff Lott says he counted 14 spent shell casings from the suspect's gun, and says more ammunition was found in the vehicle. He said the suspect also had a magazine carrier that could be worn.
"He was prepared to do whatever he could," Lott said.
Lott points out that the shooting took place in front of a Fatz Cafe restaurant and a Walgreens.
"This could have been a lot worse," Lott said. "This was 7 o'clock. Both of those places are full of people."
Lott says his officers were careful not to fire in the direction of any bystanders. He says he's reviewed dash cam video, and feels his officers acted properly.
As is the case in all officer-involved shootings, the State Law Enforcement Division is investigating. Lott said his officers are also receiving counseling.
According to the sheriff, the suspect has a previous record that includes charges of assault and burglary. Lott also said the man had a mental health issue, and his family had recently tried to have him committed.