Suspect in Aiken officer slaying waives extradition

 Stephon M. Carter is now in the hands of South Carolina authorities, after a brief appearance Tuesday in Richmond County Magistrate Court.

 

Aiken County sheriff’s officers took custody of Carter at the Richmond County jail about an hour after his noon extradition hearing, sheriff’s Capt. Gene Johnson said.

Johnson called South Carolina authorities immediately after Carter waived formal extradition, clearing the way for him to face murder charges in the slaying of Aiken Master Public Safety Officer Scotty Richardson.

“We had his stuff packed and ready to go,” Johnson said.

About 15 minutes before his extradition hearing was set to begin, Carter was wheeled into courtroom 2G, escorted by four Richmond County sheriff’s deputies.

Several Richmond County marshals moved chairs to make room at the defendant’s table for Carter’s wheelchair, where he sat handcuffed and shackled.

Carter, 19, had been under the care of physicians at Medical College of Georgia Hospital since Dec. 20, when police say he was wounded by police in a deadly shootout with Aiken public safety officers.

Police said Cart­er pulled a pistol and opened fire af­ter he was stopped in a black Chevrolet Impala on Brandt Court. Richardson was killed and Officer Travis Griffin was hit in the chest, but protected from serious injury by his bulletproof vest. The South Carolina Law Enforcement Division is in charge of the investigation.

Authorities have repeatedly declined to comment on Carter’s injuries. Other than his wheelchair, the only other sign of his bullet wound Tuesday was a length of clear plastic tubing that snaked its way from underneath his jumpsuit into a pouch at his side.

While everyone waited for the proceeding to begin, the courtroom hummed with quiet conversations of the dozen or so officers in attendance. A group of veteran lawmen, which included agents from SLED and the FBI, huddled in the back of the courtroom trading stories about other cases and other officers from the past. Carter sat largely ignored by the others, all except for a deputy who sat behind his wheelchair and watched the suspect intently.

Just before the hearing got under way, Carter’s maternal grandmother, Sarah Hickman, quietly slipped into the courtroom with two other family members. She sat and silently sobbed, while peering around the back of a tall deputy who stood in between her and her grandson.

Carter remained in his chair when Chief Magistrate Judge William Jennings III entered the room.

The defendant’s only words were a softly spoken “Stephon” to correct Jennings’ pronunciation of his first name and a quiet “yes, sir.”

After a brief whispered conference with his attorney, Carl B. Grant, of Orangeburg, S.C., Carter signed papers allowing his extradition to South Carolina, and the hearing was over.

“That concludes this matter,” Jennings said, and Carter was wheeled out of the courtroom.

J. Strom Thurmond Jr., the solicitor for South Carolina’s 2nd Judicial District, said Carter’s next opportunity to appear in court will be March 9.

“He doesn’t have to be there,” Thurmond said.

Carter’s attorney can represent him at the hearing, which amounts to a brief formal presentation of charges.

No formal indictment will be sought against Carter until SLED completes its investigation and presents it to his office, Thurmond said.

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