GREENWOOD COUNTY, S.C. -
By Matt Bruce Greenwood Index Journal
Investigators are grappling with a number of unanswered questions after tragedy descended upon a Greenwood County home Tuesday evening, where an apparent hostage standoff ended with a mass murder-suicide.
Dozens of Greenwood County deputies and investigators swarmed the Greenwood residence in the 2000 block of Callison Highway at about 6 p.m. after gunshots rang out and reports several people were bound with duct tape inside the home.
A law enforcement official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, indicated six people were found dead inside the home Tuesday night.
The source identified Bryan E. Sweatt, a 27-year-old Greenwood man, as the suspected hostage-taker, indicating he was among those found dead as he killed himself. GCSO officials could not immediately confirm how the six died.
Greenwood County Sheriff Tony Davis said four adults and two children were among the dead. He estimated the adult victims appeared to be between mid-40 to early 50s.
"We have several deceased," said Davis, who was visibly shaken at the horrific crime scene. "At this point, I can't tell you who the people are that are deceased, other than there's more than one."
Armed officers waited outside the cottage, which sat secluded on a plot amid the wooded countryside, for hours as negotiators attempted to make contact with the people inside.
After no one responded for more than two hours, the county's SWAT team made entry into the house and found the victims and their suspected killer.
The Violent Crimes Task Force, a multi-jurisdictional unit made up Greenwood County and City of Greenwood detectives, is investigating the gruesome mass murder. Davis indicated State Law Enforcement Division agents would assist with the investigation.
A SLED forensic team was en route to the house late Tuesday night to process the scene.
"We don't know what the scenario is yet. That's something we're trying to piece together," Davis said. "I've asked (deputies) to go back and listen to the call-in, and let's see what was said there. But honestly, at this particular point, I don't know a whole lot more."
Initial radio dispatches indicated the suspect entered the home and tied up several people. Two juveniles who were at the scene ran to a neighbor's home, and the neighbor called police after at least one gunshot rang out.
Emergency personnel could be seen shuttling from the scene of the murder to the residence next door, and ambulances pulled deep onto the property next door at one point, appearing to collect victims.
Officials had not yet identified any of the victims Tuesday night. Greenwood County Coroner Sonny Cox was called to the scene. Davis indicated the department would continue to investigate the incident and said he hoped to provide more information soon.
"We've got to determine who they are, how it happened, why it happened and all that," he said. "So we'll be here all night. We've got a lot of work to do."