James Branch (Image: Richland County Sheriff's Dept.)
Columbia, SC (WLTX) - Richland County Sheriff's Deputies are investigating a deadly early morning incident that began as an attempted burglary.
Captain Chris Cowan with the Richland County Sheriff's Department says at 3:30 Friday morning, deputies saw two men trying to break-in to the Columbia Powersports on Two Notch Road.
This came, after a burglary at the Lexington County location of Columbia Powersports off Fernandina Road.
Cowan say a deputy set up surveillance at the Two Notch location after the first burglary, He says he was also aware of a series of burglaries at similar businesses over the last few days.
According to Cowan, 43-year-old James Branch was being detained when the second suspect, Eddie Hollins, 33, jumped into a stolen truck and tried to hit deputies with his vehicle. He says deputies fired shots and struck Hollins in the upper body.
In his attempt to leave, Cowan says, Hollins did more damage to the property and hit a patrol car. He also says he ran over Branch twice before taking off. Branch is in custody at the hospital.
"The suspect was doing whatever he could to get away, not only did he run over his accomplice, but he ran directly at our deputies and our deputies did what they had to do. They fired at him in fear of their life," said Cowan.patrol
Deputies then followed the truck on Two Notch Road. Cowan says Hollins then crashed the truck into another business and died on the scene.
As with any shooting involving law enforcement, SLED is investigating.
Cowan says both suspects have a long history with the law.
According to a SLED report Branch has charges going as far back at 1989. He has been charged and convicted of numerous crimes including criminal sexual conduct, forgery, and robbery.
Wayne Wilkes owns the two Columbia Powersports locations. He and employees spent time working to clean up damage done to the business.
Wilkes said he was aware of burglaries happening at similar businesses and tried to take precautions. He says he is glad it did not happen when employees were around.
Wilkes, who said he has been in business for 35 years, says he hopes to keep his doors open to customers even as they work to return things to normal.