GOWENSVILLE, SC — A man matching the description of an armed robber was shot and killed by a Greenville sheriff’s deputy Friday afternoon, authorities said, ending a newly three-hour manhunt that cut through a golf course and into the driveways of this small rural community off State 11.
The suspect has not been identified.
Deputies had been searching for the man since 10 a.m. when they were called to an armed robbery in progress at the Dollar General between State 11 and State 14 in Gowensville, said Sheriff’s Office spokesman Drew Pinciaro.
Two helicopters circled overhead as K-9 units and a SWAT team scoured the area around Links O’Tryon.
Several hours later, about 1:50 p.m., Pinciaro said a K-9 handler and his dog spotted the suspect running through the woods on Links Drive and gave chase. The road is located within a subdivision that straddles the Spartanburg County line.
The K-9 and deputy caught up with the suspect, who began to fight with both of them, Pinciaro said.
“The handler realized the suspect had a handgun in his hand and began yelling to the other members of the search team that he had a gun,” Pinciaro said.
He said another deputy fired at least one shot, “striking the suspect and eliminating the threat.”
The man was pronounced dead at the scene.
Earlier that morning, Jack Vickers Jr. and his wife Lillie McCain woke up to the drone of helicopters.
The retired couple moved to the Links Community two years ago from Michigan. They had seen a police car just once in that time.
“All day long we looked out and there were cop cars everywhere,” McCain said. “They were running through my garden, running through the backyard with drawn weapons looking very much like military men.”
The couple said they checked to make sure the doors were locked and then spent the morning looking out the windows, pacing back and forth.
They didn’t hear gunshots, Vickers said, but when officers started putting up crime scene type, “I knew someone was dead.”
At Hyder’s roadside market, Frank Hyder sold produce under the drone of helicopters as patrol cars drove up and down State 14 and State 11. That crossroads, a church and the old elementary school is what makes up Gowensville, Hyder explained.
It’s a quiet community, where not much happens, he said.
Travis Bradshaw was at work at Links O’Tryon when he saw “every cop you could think of” arriving at the scene. He watched as a helicopter land outside the clubhouse.
The incident also led to lockdowns at five Landrum-area schools — Landrum High, Landrum Middle, Holly Springs-Motlow Elementary, O.P. Earle Elementary and Campobello-Gramling schools were placed on lockdown out of "an abundance of caution," according to Spartanburg School District One's Facebook page.
The lockdown was lifted about 1:10 p.m. when the suspect was apprehended, the school district said.
“Today was just beyond imagination,” McCain said hours later while standing in front of her home.
Deputies from Greenville and Spartanburg counties blocked off most of McCain’s neighborhood until about 6 p.m. Next door to Vickers, down a wooded driveway, red paint marked where the suspect had been shot.
Spartanburg County Coroner Rusty Clevenger was investigating the death along with the State Law Enforcement Division.
There have been more than 30 officer involved shootings in South Carolina this year. In 2015, there were 48.