Special FBI team helping investigate deadly South Carolina attack on law enforcement officers
A special FBI team that investigated the slayings of five police officers in Dallas in 2016 and the deadly mass shooting in Las Vegas last year is helping local authorities gather evidence in what’s described as an ambush attack that killed one South Carolina law enforcement officer and wounded six others.
“This is a large crime scene. This is a very large, complex puzzle that we are still filling the pieces in,” Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott told reporters Friday. His deputies, based in the state capital of Columbia, are investigating the case at the request of the sheriff in Florence County, about 90 miles to the east, where the slayings took place Wednesday afternoon.
The suspect, 74-year-old Frederick Hopkins, was charged with murder and six counts of attempted murder Friday.
The decorated Vietnam War veteran had set an ambush for investigators coming to question his adult son about a child sexual assault, Lott said.
Hopkins was hospitalized after he was taken into custody Wednesday, but was taken to jail Friday, Lott said.
Florence County investigators had called Hopkins’ home and arranged to speak to his 28-year-old son, Seth Hopkins, about a sex assault investigation Wednesday afternoon, Lott said, adding that they had a search warrant. Officials had previously given the son’s age as 27.
The three deputies were shot without warning as they got out of their car, Lott said.
Dozens of officers rushed to help, and the gunman shot four Florence police officers, killing Sgt. Terrence Carraway.
So many rounds were fired with such powerful weapons that it took up to 30 minutes to get an armored vehicle close enough to rescue the wounded officers, Florence Police Chief Allen Heidler said. The standoff lasted two hours.
Several children in the home were not harmed, authorities said.
Seth Hopkins was charged Friday with second-degree criminal sexual conduct. Authorities didn’t immediately release details about the case. Lott said Seth Hopkins also was hospitalized after the shooting but was released from medical care and jailed Friday.
Local state WBTW-TV reported that Judge Tommy Mourounas denied bail for Frederick Hopkins, who needed help getting in and out of the courtroom and appeared dazed and tired.
Mourounas asked Hopkins, “You understand where you’re at right now?”
Hopkins responded, “No, where am I?”
The judge replied, “You’re at bond hearing court.”
The court delayed a decision whether to appoint him a lawyer until his financial status can be verified.
The judge also denied bail for Seth Hopkins, who was not assigned a public defender.
Frederick Hopkins’ wife, Cheryl Turner Hopkins, is an attorney and attended a hearing Friday that Solicitor Ed Clements said concerned emergency custody for children in the home. The solicitor did not provide details on the hearing, and the family court judge sealed the case.
Cheryl Turner Hopkins told a reporter from another local station, WPDE-TV, outside the courtroom that she is sorry for the officers’ families and asked for prayers.
Two of the wounded officers have been released from the hospital. Lott said others remain in critical condition but did not provide details.
Frederick Hopkins is a Vietnam veteran and a disbarred attorney. His Army records obtained by the Associated Press show he was awarded a marksman badge with a pistol bar and a sharpshooter badge with rifle bar during 11 years of service starting in 1966.
Hopkins also was awarded the Bronze Star for his heroism defending a base under attack by North Vietnamese forces on May 6, 1970.
As an Army captain, Hopkins carried medical supplies across an open area, “braving shrapnel from exploding mortar rounds,” according to the letter explaining the award. He was critically wounded when a mortar round exploded near him, the letter said.
Hopkins earned his law license after leaving the military but was disbarred a few years later for mishandling money. Several of his Facebook posts in recent years were about guns, including celebrating his 70th birthday by repeatedly firing his M14 rifle, “set up exactly like the one I used in Vietnam.”
Authorities also released the names of all the wounded officers. Florence County Sheriff’s Deputy Arie Davis, investigator Sarah Miller and investigator Farrah Turner were shot as they arrived at the Hopkins home. Florence Police Officers Brian Hart, Travis Scott and Scott Williamson were wounded and Carraway was killed as they rushed to help.
Carraway’s funeral is scheduled Monday at the city’s Civic Center.
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