COLUMBIA — One suspect was killed and another severely injured following an early-morning burglary attempt in Richland County.
Deputies shot an unidentified suspect at Columbia Powersports on Two Notch Road near Decker Boulevard around 3:30 a.m. after he drove his vehicle at deputies attempting to make an arrest, Capt. Chris Cowan with the Richland County Sheriff’s Department said. Richland County Coroner Gary Watts had not identified the suspect, pending family notification,
A second suspect, 43-year-old James Branch, is hospitalized and facing charges of second-degree burglary and two counts of attempted murder upon release.
Following a string of four burglaries at Midlands’ cycle centers in recent days, including one late Thursday at a business on Fernandina Road, Richland County K9 Deputy Adam Oxendine set up surveillance at Columbia Powersports on Two Notch Road. During his surveillance, he heard glass breaking as someone drove a pickup truck through the glass front of the building, Cowan said.
Oxendine, who has been with the department since October 2004, radioed a burglary in progress and Senior Deputy Clay Short soon arrived. While the deputies were able to apprehend and handcuff Branch, a second suspect jumped into the pickup truck and backed out of the storefront.
He drove the vehicle through a retaining wall and at deputies and Branch, running over him and then backing up and running over Branch again. Both deputies fired, hitting the truck and the suspect. The suspect managed to drive the blue pick-up truck a mile along Two Notch Road before crashing into Bakers Sports Pub & Grill, badly damaging the business.
“This is what they are trained to do,” Cowan said. “They are trying to prevent crime from happening, arrest suspects and end the danger to the community.”
Cowan said, as is typical in these situations, the State Law Enforcement Division will conduct an investigation.
The Richland County Sheriff’s Department will follow its own protocols that ensure deputies are “cared for.” That includes counseling, support and critical incident debriefing. This was the fourth person shot and killed by Richland County Sheriff’s deputies so far in 2013.
“They were forced to do something that nobody wants to do, but they had to do,” Cowan said. “It’s a long process.”