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Suspect shot, home burned in Coward armed standoff

Suspect shot, home burned in Coward armed standoff

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COWARD, S.C. — A man who had barricaded himself in a house at the corner of Factory Street and Hicks Road in Coward Wednesday night was shot and the house burned during an armed standoff with Florence County sheriff's deputies.

The sheriff's office deployed a recently purchased armored vehicle between the home and the Coward Church of God, which was full of congregants celebrating their mid-week service, Florence County Administrator K.G. "Rusty" Smith said Thursday morning at a Florence County Council meeting.

Florence County deputies initially responded to a call of a person threatening to set fire to a house and firing a gun outside the dwelling, Maj. Mike Nunn wrote in a media advisory.

When deputies arrived on the scene the man fired on deputies and then set fire to the house.

Smith said the man who barricaded himself "apparently had a bad day in court" and called his wife to tell her that he would be setting their home on Hicks Road on fire.

"He subsequently did that," Smith told council members. "Sheriff's department personnel arrived. When they arrived, they were met with a rifle. Shots were fired."

Smith said the sheriff's officers secured the church to prevent anyone attending the services from being shot. He said the pastor of the church later told officers that he thanked God they had the new vehicle.

Smith said he had spoken with Florence County Sheriff T.J. Joye and Chief Deputy Tommy Sullivan about the standoff and both said that the new vehicle saved numerous lives during the situation.

The purchase of a new armored vehicle was included in the third penny sales tax approved by voters on Nov. 3, 2020. The county council voted in January to approve the expenditure of $233,097 in third penny sales tax funds to purchase the vehicle — a Lenco Bearcat.

At one point during the standoff the Bearcat came under fire and successfully withstood the rounds and protected all inside.

The standoff ended in an exchange of gunfire between the man and deputies.

"At a point during the incident the suspect exited the house and opened fire on deputies again, who returned fire wounding the suspect," Nunn wrote in the media advisory.

The man was taken by medics with Florence County EMS to a hospital and South Lynches firefighters extinguished the fire in the double-wide mobile home, but not before it was all but destroyed.

No first responders were injured.

Nunn said Joye has requested that SLED investigate the standoff — standard practice in a deputy-involved shooting.

SLED will present its findings from the investigation to the 12th Circuit Solicitor's Office.

SLED spokesman Tommy Crosby said the agency will also investigate the fire as an arson.

This is the state's seventh officer-involved shooting this year. Last year there were 49.

Morning News digital editor Matthew Robertson also contributed to this story. 

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Government and Politics Reporter

I cover the city of Florence, the county of Florence, the state legislative delegation of Florence County and surrounding areas, and the federal delegation representing the Pee Dee for the Morning News.

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