Police: Man who shot Berkeley County Sheriff's deputy killed in standoff
CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) -- Police say they shot and killed a man who was wanted for the attempted murder of Berkeley County Sheriff's Lt. Will Rogers Thursday after the man emerged from a downtown apartment and opened fire at officers.
Charleston County Coroner Rae Wooten said Jerome Thomas Caldwell, 32, of Mount Pleasant died from the return fire, ending a 10-hour standoff with heavily-armed police at the Robert Mills Manor apartments near the Old Charleston Jail.
Authorities say Caldwell was identified through DNA as the masked suspect in the May 14th shooting of Rogers. They say he is not the "person of interest" pictured in a sketch that was released by the State Law Enforcement Division last week. Police say they are still hoping to talk to the man in the sketch.
After the shooting Charleston Police Chief Greg Mullen, flanked by officials from the Berkeley County Sheriff's Office, Mayor Joe Riley and others laid out the timeline that culminated in Caldwell's death.
Mullen said a SLED agent went to 8 Cromwell Alley at 3:47 a.m. Thursday to serve the attempted warrant on Caldwell. He said officers were able to pull one person out of the apartment before Caldwell slammed the door. One person -- a child -- remained stuck inside the home with Caldwell.
Officers, including hostage negotiations teams and a bomb squad, surrounded the home. Mullen said the child was eventually released during conversations with negotiators. The conversations continued throughout the standoff as Caldwell talked about shooting officers, committing suicide and having demands met.
"The goal was to have him come out peacefully and have this situation end without any incident," Mullen said.
The standoff went on for 10 hours as police occasionally fired canisters into the apartment. Mullen said Caldwell shot a gun inside the building multiple times and managed to tear through the walls of the apartment and enter into adjacent apartments.
At 1:47 p.m., Mullen said, Caldwell finally emerged through the rear door of one of the apartments and fired multiple shots at the officers who returned fire.
Caldwell died just blocks from MUSC where Rogers is in critical but stable condition after the May 14th shooting. Authorities say Rogers, the nightshift supervisor, was talking to a customer in the parking lot of an Exxon gas station on U.S. 52 and Cypress Gardens Road when he was shot in the back of the head by a masked gunman who came from behind the building.
The gunman then carjacked another customer's vehicle and crashed it down the road. Authorities searched the area for 16 hours before determining he wasn't there. They then turned to leads.
Wooten said Caldwell's DNA matched DNA evidence authorities collected in their investigation but declined to discuss its origins, including whether it was connected to DNA swabs taken from students at Sedgefield Middle School in Goose Creek.
Berkeley County Sheriff Butch Henery said they received a tip about Caldwell on Saturday and authorities made the DNA match at 6 p.m. Wednesday, which is when they began searching for him but he was not at his Mount Pleasant home.
After the standoff began, residents who live near the scene spent most of the day standing on the streets near their homes waiting for some sign it was coming to an end. But they were not without reprieve. A CARTA bus was parked nearby giving people displaced by the standoff a place to sit in an air-conditioned space, and employees from Jimmy John's delivered dozens of sandwiches to people in the area.
Officials at the Charleston County School District said early Thursday morning they were aware of the situation near Memminger Elementary School and were working to get kids to their schools as safely as possible. Officials said Memminger along with Burke Middle and High schools were also affected.
Police said they were told by the school district that Memminger Elementary School was on an administrative lockdown until the police operation on Cromwell Alley was resolved.
Nicole Frazier, who lives near the scene of the standoff, says she was alerted by the school district that Memminger Elementary School was on code yellow, meaning parents should use the back entrance to take their children to school. One of her sons attends the school, but Frazier said she decided it was best to keep her son with her until she knew more about the standoff.
"It's very scary to send your children to school and not know what's going on," she said.
Frazier said police also asked residents to stay in the area until there was some kind of resolution.