Affidavit: Caldwell linked to shooting of deputy by voluntary DNA sample
CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) -- The man police shot and killed Thursday afternoon during a standoff in downtown Charleston was linked to the shooting of a Berkeley County Sheriff's deputy by a voluntary DNA sample he gave at his Mount Pleasant home.
According to an affidavit released Friday by the State Law Enforcement Division, 32-year-old Jerome Thomas Caldwell was found flagging down cars by Berkeley County Sheriff's deputies two mornings after Lt. Will Rogers was shot in the back of the head. Caldwell reportedly told deputies he spent the night in the woods and was trying to make it back to his Venning Road home in Mount Pleasant.
On Tuesday, three days after being picked up by deputies, SLED investigators met with Caldwell and asked for a DNA sample. That sample matched the DNA collected in the mask found inside the abandoned SUV that was stolen by Caldwell moments after the shooting.
Investigators said in a press conference Thursday after Caldwell had been shot and killed that DNA evidence led them from Berkeley County to Mount Pleasant and then to downtown Charleston, but would not go into the forensic details of the case.
But they said that the DNA test results came back with a match Wednesday evening. That match came from Caldwell's voluntary swab, the affidavit shows.
SLED agents also took DNA samples and conducted interviews with members of the Sedgefield Middle School community on Wednesday, before the DNA results from Caldwell's tests returned. SLED Agent Thom Berry said since the investigation began they have spoken to as many as 20 students from that school, and possibly surrounding schools, with the advance permission of the students' parents or guardians.
Those students' DNA swabs were the focus of a National Action Network press conference Friday morning, however. Officials with the organization claim that not all of the students' families gave investigators permission for the swabs.
Caldwell was also identified Friday as the person depicted in a sketch artists rendering of a person of interest in the case.
The announcement came a day after officials said in an afternoon press conference after 32-year-old Jerome Thomas Caldwell was shot and killed that Caldwell was the man who shot Lt. Will Rogers, but not the person of interest depicted in a sketch released by SLED a week ago.
The standoff at the Robert Mills Manor apartments started shortly before 4 a.m. Thursday when police say SLED agents tried to serve an arrest warrant for attempted murder. Officers were able to pull one person out of the apartment before Caldwell slammed the door, but another person -- a child -- was still stuck inside the home.
The child was later released during conversations with hostage negotiators.
With Caldwell armed inside the apartment, police evacuated the building, leaving dozens of sleepy residents standing on the streets and watching the 10-hour ordeal play out. As the sun rose, so did the heat and residents' impatience and concern with the ongoing standoff. 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.
Nicole Frazier, who lives near the scene of the standoff, says she was alerted by the school district that Memminger Elementary School is 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.
During those talks, Mullen said Caldwell repeatedly talked about shooting police officer, committing suicide, and made several demands as well. Police say Caldwell also broke his way through the walls into an adjoining apartment during the standoff.
Shortly before 2 p.m., after a couple hours of SWAT firing canisters into the apartment where Caldwell was holed up, the wanted man stepped out of the apartment and opened fire on police. They returned fire, killing Caldwell.
Charleston police identified the two officers who fired on Caldwell as Master officer Omar Bautista, a 14-year veteran of the department, and Officer Brandon Parker, a four-year veteran of the department. Both officers are on paid administrative leave.
The shooting marks the 20th officer-involved shooting for the year in South Carolina, according to SLED's records.