Community jolted after shooting death of Florence police officer

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— The death of a police officer and the shooting of several other law enforcement officials Wednesday has jolted Florence, South Carolina.

A number of prayer vigils have been planned in the city.

Rev. Chris Handley, who led a vigil Thursday evening, said the Florence community has a strong foundation.

“One of the things you learn from that is no community is really immune from it, and so it is good to have a strong base that can meet the challenge of the inevitable moment,” Handley said. “I think that is one thing Florence has.”

Authorities said the gunman had an advantage over law enforcement officers as he could see them approach the home.

The gunman fired a storm of bullets from a high-powered rifle, authorities said.

The gunfire was so heavy, officers already shot could not be immediately rescued. One officer was shot while still in a patrol car. It took an armored vehicle to get to there.

Police and sheriff’s deputies went to the home Wednesday to serve a search warrant in an investigation of an alleged sexual assault against a foster child, authorities said.

As law enforcement approached the door, the shooting started, they said.

Seven officers were shot.

Police Sgt. Terrence Carraway was killed. He was 52.

A police escort led the way Wednesday as his body was taken from the hospital.

He’d served almost 31 years on the Florence police force.

“With more than 30 years, he didn’t have to do this job,” Florence Police Chief Allen Heidler said. “But this was his life, and this is what he wanted to do.”

Authorities said 74-year old Fredrick Hopkins was the gunman.

A Vietnam veteran and disbarred attorney, Hopkins reportedly had references to guns on his social media profiles.

After a two-hour standoff, he was arrested.

Hopkins’ son, the alleged suspect in the assault investigation, was also shot and taken to a hospital.

Heidler said these have been the toughest days he’s had leading the police department.

Carraway, he said, was a personal friend.

“This is a guy that laughed all the time,” Heidler said. “He was a giant of a man, but he was the proverbial gentle giant, and I loved him.”