Accused police killer appears in Florence County court to discuss mental health

How the Florence police shooting unfolded

Hour by hour, here is a timeline of the police shooting in Florence County, SC that left one officer dead and six more wounded.
Up Next
Hour by hour, here is a timeline of the police shooting in Florence County, SC that left one officer dead and six more wounded.

The man accused of murdering two police officers and injuring several others during an ambush-style shooting will undergo a mental evaluation.

Fred Hopkins, 74, is accused of killing Florence police Sgt. Terrance Carraway and Florence County Sheriff’s investigator Farrah Turner in October. He was charged with murder and attempted murder counts and could face the death penalty.

Hopkins, his attorney and 12th Judicial Circuit Solicitor Ed Clements were all in a Florence County courtroom on Monday afternoon to discuss the request.

Clements requested the evaluation, an unusual move as it’s often defense attorneys who start that process. Hopkins recently wrote letters to local media that were published, Clements said. The letters detail his history with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

“All that stuff has gone out on Facebook and all over the internet,” Clements said.

The evaluation should look at both at Hopkins’ ability to assist in his defense and his mental state in October when he fired hundreds of rounds at officers at his Ashton Place home. Police went to the residence as they investigated Hopkins’ adult son for sexual-based crimes.

West Florence Battalion Chief Dustin Fails describes the scene when he and his crew responded to the Florence police shooting on Wednesday that left six officers injured and one dead.

Hopkins was present for the hearing but did not speak publicly. He only spoke to his attorney, Aimee Zmroczek, who was appointed to represent Hopkins pro bono. Hopkins was shackled and wore a blue jail-issued jumpsuit during the hearing. He looked noticeably thinner than when first arrested six months ago.

Zmroczek called the mental evaluation “premature” and said she has not reviewed her client’s health history.

Judge Thomas Russo ruled Hopkins has to undergo the evaluation and noted that it was likely to happen at some point in the legal process.

The judge also issued a gag order restricting the release information to the public. The solicitor’s office, the defense and law enforcement investigating the shooting are now barred from discussing the case. The move, Russo said, was to protect both the state and Hopkins in the legal process.

“I’m confident any information the public is entitled to have is out there,” Russo said.

Related stories from Myrtle Beach Sun News

Alex Lang is the True Crime reporter for The Sun News covering the legal system and how crime impacts local residents. He says letting residents know if they are safe is a vital role of a newspaper. Alex has covered crime in Detroit, Iowa, New York City, West Virginia and now Horry County.