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An early-morning traffic stop along the 1400 block of Grace Avenue ended with a woman killed in an officer-involved shooting on Thursday, April 24, though details about the incident remain sketchy.
Shortly after the incident, during which an erratic driver was shot and killed, deputies had blocked off the road between Oakdale Drive and Franklin Street, and were directing motorists away from the scene. Helicopters buzzed overhead as a team of deputies were seen walking the crime scene.
Lancaster County Deputy Coroner Tony Broome, who was still there about noon, confirmed that a woman in her mid-50s had been killed. He was waiting to release the name until her family had been notified.
Though it was still too early in the investigation, Broome had a preliminary cause of death.
“Right now, we know it’s a gunshot wound, but we’ll send her off for an autopsy, probably first thing in the morning Friday, and then we’ll know more,” Broome said.
Standing in the parking lot of Stash-N-Dash, a self-storage facility beside Gooches Corssroads Volunteer Fire Department, less than a mile from the shooting scene, Lancaster County Sheriff Barry Faile held a brief press conference just after 10 a.m. Thursday.
He said the incident began as a routine traffic stop at about 7:40 a.m. when deputies received a call about an erratic driver along Grace Avenue.
“An officer went to the area, located the vehicle and stopped the car,” Faile said. “There was an officer-involved shooting and at this point that’s all I can say.”
Faile did confirm that three deputies were involved in the incident, though only one was directly involved in the shooting and none of the deputies were injured. All three have been placed on administrative leave, per department policy, he said.
Faile said the investigation was turned over to the S.C. Law Enforcement Division (SLED), though he said it seemed as if the deputies had acted in accordance with proper department procedures.
“One person is deceased, but that’s all I’m going to tell you. You’ll need to talk to SLED,” Faile said, before ending the press conference.
When asked if any shots had been fired at the deputies, Faile said he could not comment any further about the details.
Despite calls to the sheriff’s office, the names of the three deputies were not available Thursday afternoon.
Watching from the side of the road were several bystanders, none of whom actually saw the erratic driver, the traffic stop or the shooting.
A pair of men sitting in a car near the road block were watching as several deputy patrol cars sped down the road, but did not know what happened.
“They got this road closed off and won’t let us down,” one of the unnamed men said. “We heard the police shot somebody down there.”
A man who lives only yards from the scene, but wanted to remain anonymous, said one of his neighbors let him know about the commotion.
“A lady down the street called us and said there’s something going down,” the man said. “Nothing like this happens around here.”
On Thursday afternoon, SLED spokesman Thom Berry commented on his agency’s involvement in the investigation.
“We do have crime scene specialists and agents from our regional office on the scene and they are conducting the investigation,” Berry said.
As part of SLED’s standard investigative procedures, agents usually only focus on the actual shooting, Barry said.
“Normally, we’ll only investigate the shooting incident, not the events that led up to the shooting unless we are asked to do so,” he said. “I don’t know if that request has been made to investigate that as well.”
He didn’t expect many details to be released until investigators had gathered more information.
“We don’t do incident reports, we do case file reports which are more extensive and more exhaustive,” he said. “We will conduct the investigation and once we get all our information gathered together, then we will present the case file to the proper prosecutorial authority, which in this case is the solicitor’s office.”
He said the solicitor’s office would then make a decision if any charges would be filed.
“Until it’s closed, our status will probably be ‘open and ongoing,’” Berry said. “And we’ll probably have to wait until forensic tests are done in this case.”
This was the 14th officer-involved shooting in the state so far this year, Berry said, and the second one this week. The first happened Monday, April 21, in Richland County after a man was shot when he tried to strike a deputy with his car.
Out of the 42 officer-involved shootings in South Carolina that happened in 2013, none of them were in Lancaster County, Berry said.
Contact reporter Chris Sardelli at (803) 416-8416