COLUMBIA, S.C. — The Richland County Sheriff says his deputies and a property owner are lucky they weren't hurt after a man opened fire as they were serving an eviction notice on Friday morning.
Sheriff Leon Lott held a press conference on Friday afternoon, elaborating on what happened - and how narrowly a crisis was avoided.
"Through the grace of God, we were lucky today," Lott said.
Authorities say one person is in custody but no one was wounded after an attempt to serve an eviction notice in Columbia devolved into gunfire on Friday.
According to the Richland County Sheriff's Department, deputies were in the 2500 block of Gervais Street, not far from Millwood Avenue, around 9:30 a.m.
Lott said that deputies initially approached and announced that they were there but received no response. It was when the deputies were attempting to pry open the door that a shot was fired from inside, he said.
The sheriff said that the suspect, 29-year-old Johnathon Anthony Dacey Ballard, had no question of who was at the door.
"He knew it was deputies there," the sheriff said. "He did not think that someone was breaking into his house. They announced theirselves. He was quite aware of who was there."
The sheriff added that he believes the suspect's intent was to kill whoever was on the other side of the door.
Ballard then ran out of a side door but was caught by a Columbia Police Department officer who was nearby. Ballard has been charged with three counts of attempted murder and taken to Alvin S. Glenn Detention Center.
"It could have easily been one of us, one of the deputies, or the civilian standing in that door," Lott said.
Neither the property owner more the two deputies, Captain Ransom Baxter and Deputy Darrell Benson, were injured and didn't return fire the sheriff said. Baxter has been with the sheriff's department since 1994 and Benson since 2021.