PELION, S.C. — Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott says one of his deputies shot and killed a suspect who pulled a gun on him following a police chase.
Lott gave an update on the shooting of 26-year-old Zachary Kinard that took place early Wednesday morning and went through multiple streets through two different counties. It's the first officer-involved shooting for his department since August of 2016.
Lott said it all began in the town of Lexington around 4:30 a.m. when officers there responded to a call of a suspect breaking into cars. Lexington police confirmed the car the suspect was driving was stolen and attempted to stop him.
Kinard didn't stop, Lott says, and went up to Irmo. Richland County deputies began chasing him, and went through Greystone Boulevard, Interstate 126, North Main Street, and finally back into Lexington County.
It ended around 5 a.m. on Hilton Yonce Road, which is near Pelion, and where Kinard has lived and has family.
"He was driving home," Sheriff Lott said.
Lott said Kinard pulled out a gun and pointed it at K-9 Deputy Tyler Hazel. Hazel then fired 'multiple rounds' at Kinard, killing him.
"It's a tragic situation," Lott said. "Our deputies do not like to take someone's life but when our deputies are put into this kind of situation, they have no choice."
Hilton Yonce Road is a secluded area, but a nearby resident says she heard the gun fire.
“I was sleeping and gun shots woke me up. It sounded to me like pow pow pow which wasn’t unusual either out in this area like I said out in the county,” Dale Bone said.
Bone said she hears hunters and other shooters in the area all the time. But it was the heavy law enforcement presence that she noticed.
“There we so many cars and trucks on the road I thought something big must be going on and then when daylight came I counted three vehicles come in and three going out I lost count there were so many coming,” Bone said.
Lott said he believes the shooting was justified, but the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division was brought in by Lexington County Sheriff Jay Koon to investigate.
Lott said Hazel has been with his agency for six years.
"He has served admirably, and we've had no issues with him," Lott said.
He describes Kinard as a "career criminal" who had been on a crime spree. Two stolen guns were found in the vehicle, according to Lott: one had been taken during the break ins Wednesday morning, while the other had been stolen last week in Richland County.
Lott said Kinard has been released from state prison in December on theft charges.
Lott said the officer did have body cam and dash cam. He said that is not being released because it's part of the investigation.
Deputy Hazel is receiving counseling, Lott said.