Florence, South Carolina shooting: Suspect bragged of marksmanship; 2 officers released from hospital

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A Vietnam veteran who bragged online about maintaining his target-shooting skills is being held on charges that he shot seven law enforcement officers, killing one when deputies tried to serve a search warrant at his home.

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Authorities said 74-year-old Frederick Hopkins opened fire on the deputies from inside the home and held children hostage while shooting long-range at other officers who rushed to the suburban neighborhood.

“We as a city spent the past 24 hours only half believing the stark reality that has occurred,” Mayor Stephen Wukela said at a news conference Thursday. “Those in front of you in this community have had groups of emotions ranging from pain, anger and guilt. And while feeling those emotions I’m reminded of our friend Sgt. Carraway. His determination, his humility, his humor and courage.”

Mayor Wukela was talking about 52-year-old Sgt. Terrence Carraway, who lost his life in the shooting. He had just been honored for his 30 years of service with the Florence Police Department.

“He was the epitome of community police officer,” said Police Chief Allen Heidler. “Gave it his all. This was his life and what he wanted to do serving Florence was his passion.”

He said that about a half-hour passed between when the officers were shot and when they were recovered with an armored vehicle.

Heidler said he was there and the wait “seemed like it was forever, but it was not.”

Two of the six wounded officers were released from the hospital Thursday.

“Officers went there unknowing the firepower the suspect had,” Florence County Sheriff Kenney Boone said at a news conference.

“Fire was being shot all over. The way this suspect was positioned, his view of fire was several hundred yards. So he had an advantage. The officers couldn’t get to the ones who were down.”

Hopkins, a disabled Vietnam veteran and disbarred lawyer, has faced several charges in recent years, starting with a 2014 count of disorderly conduct.

According to The Associated Press, Hopkins posted on social media about being a competitive marksman and taking his children shooting with him.

Images captured from Frederick Hopkins’ Facebook show comments he made in 2014 talking about taking his 12-year-old to a shooting range and firing an M-14 rifle “set up exactly like one I used in Viet Nam in 69-70.”

“I just love the smell of gunpowder in the mornin’s,” he wrote in the post to commemorate his 70th birthday. The post also says he had been “shooting competitively since 1984 and lovin’ it.”

Other posts, from 2016, show images of rifles and say he was the “South Carolina 3-Gun Silhouette Champion for 2011.”

Kirby also said that the search warrant involved an accusation that a 27-year-old person at the home sexually assaulted a foster child who lives in the home. Three Florence County deputies had come to serve the warrant around 4 p.m. Wednesday, Boone said.
Officials refused to say why they were serving a warrant. They did not name the suspect. They also did not identify the wounded officers or describe their conditions.

“When cops put their badges on every single day and they know what tragedy could await them,” Heidler said. “They kiss their wives, they kiss their husbands, they kiss their significant others with the thought that they’re going to return. But they’re going to protect the city. They’re going to protect the public.”

(Copyright ©2018 ABC11-WTVD-TV/DT. All Rights Reserved – The Associated Press contributed to this report.)