RCSD leads the investigation and is the lead agency for release of all incident-related public information
By W. Thomas Smith Jr.
COLUMBIA AND FLORENCE, S.C. – In the immediate aftermath of Wednesday’s shooting of seven law enforcement officers (including four police officers and three deputy sheriffs) – one dead and one still critically wounded – in Florence, South Carolina; the Richland County Sheriff’s Dept. (RCSD) was called to investigate. Why was RCSD requested when that agency’s central-S.C. headquarters and jurisdiction is two counties away?
“The short answer is Florence County Sheriff Kenney Boone wanted Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott’s involvement in this,” said RCSD Deputy Chief Stan Smith, commander of RCSD’s Criminal Investigations Division. “We have an ‘investigative shoot team’ that is second-to-none when it comes to officer-involved shootings.”
In fact, RCSD is one of only two agencies, statewide, that fields such a unit: The other agency being the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED). Why RCSD and not SLED?
“This is being treated as a homicide investigation,” says Sheriff Lott. “Sadly, we’ve investigated quite a few homicides, and so our officers have quite a bit of experience in this. Additionally, sheriffs in this state work very closely together. Sheriff Boone reached out to me while he was on the scene, and we responded.”
RCSD’s ‘investigative shoot team’ is an arm of RCSD’s Criminal Investigations Division (CID). “This officer-involved-shooting team is comprised of CID supervisors who are specially trained in these types of crime-scene investigations,” says Smith. “We have in-house ballistics, as well as our forensics laboratory and all of our skilled, experienced investigators.”
According to Smith, RCSD dispatched investigators to Florence County in support of both the Florence Police Dept. and the Florence County Sheriff’s Office, as well as the S.C. Highway Patrol, within an hour of the shooting.
“One of our senior supervisors was there 30 minutes after the suspect was taken into custody,” says Smith. “We have eight to 10 on-scene right now. And before this investigation is over, we’ll have upwards of 20 RCSD personnel involved; everyone from our CSI [crime scene investigations] team, DNA from forensics, as well as those from the firearms-toolmarks examiners section, evidence custodians, victim advocates, and public information officers among others.”
The shooting erupted, Wed. afternoon, Oct. 3, as Florence County deputies attempted to execute a search warrant at a home located in the city of Florence. A shooter opened fire before barricading himself with children inside the house, which launched a two-hour standoff that cost the life of veteran Florence police officer Terrence Carraway.
“It is going to take some time to process this crime scene,” says Lott. “It is a very large, active, and intensive investigation, and It’s going to be a very thorough investigation.”
Lott adds, “We will probably have daily press conferences. We will release information as we have it, and as is necessary to release at a given time. All official information will come from us [RCSD’s Office of Public Information]. We are working with all the agencies involved, but because we are ‘the lead’ in this ongoing investigation, it has also been agreed that the official source of information will be us.”
– W. Thomas Smith Jr. – a formerly deployed U.S. Marine infantry leader, counterterrorism instructor, and tactical (SWAT) team officer – is a special deputy with the Richland County Sheriff’s Dept.