AIKEN - An Aiken County sheriffs deputy-in-training acted appropriately this morning when he returned fire, killing a convenience store robbery suspect, Sheriff Michael Hunt said.
At a morning press conference, the sheriff said Deputy Larry Cleveland, 56, followed procedure.
Deputy Cleveland, who had retired from the South Carolina Highway Patrol in December after 27 years, was taken to the Medical College of Georgia Hospital where he is being treated for non-life-threatening gunshot wounds, the sheriff said.
The man fatally shot by the deputy has not been identified, Sheriff Hunt said. He had no ID, and authorities have been unable to locate any vehicle.
The shoot-out began about 5 a.m. when Deputies Cleveland and Michael Goodwin, 32, responded to the Four Seasons Food and Fuel at the corner of Whiskey Road and Citadel Drive for a well-being check and a possible armed robbery.
When the deputies arrived, they noticed a purse and a cell phone in the parking lot outside the front door.
Lt. Elwell spokesman for the sheriffs office said when the deputies entered the store, the suspect popped up from behind the counter with the clerk held hostage with a gun aimed at her chest.
Almost immediately, the suspect, wearing a mask and gloves, turned his gun and fired at the deputies, striking Deputy Cleveland in the right hip just below his vest. The suspect fired off two more shots, one missing the deputies and the third shot hitting Deputy Cleveland in his right shoulder.
Deputy Cleveland fired a round striking the suspect in the chest, Lt. Elwell said.
The suspect died at the scene.
Deputy Goodwin was not injured, and he did not discharge his gun.
The victim also was not injured.
When the gun battle ensued, she was able to get herself away from the suspect and flee to a different part of the store, Lt. Elwell said.
The victim was just opening the convenience store when she was attacked.
The initial call to dispatch came in from the victims sister, who was talking to her prior to the store opening, Lt. Elwell said.
The South Carolina Law Enforcement Division has been called in to investigate.
Normally, deputies do not ride two to a vehicle, but Deputy Goodwin was along because Deputy Cleveland, who was hired by the sheriffs office on Jan. 2, was in field officer training, Lt. Elwell said.
This is the first office-related shooting involving the sheriffs office since 2007.
On Aug. 30, 2007, two deputies, responding to a domestic disturbance, were checking the home when the suspect came out from under a bed and stabbed one of the officers. The suspect was shot by one of the deputies, but did not die.
To the best of our knowledge, the last time an officer was killed was in 1925 when Sheriff Henry Howard was killed, Lt. Elwell said.