The death of Aiken Master Public Safety Officer Scotty Richardson is not a murder mystery. There is no whodunit. Police have warrants against the suspect, Stephon M. Carter of Aiken, who was captured at the scene after being wounded by police.
But the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division still has a puzzle to solve.
The mystery is how it all went down. What led to the shootout? How many officers fired their weapons? Which officer wounded the suspect? And ultimately, how could the 19-year-old suspect get the drop on three armed police officers, shooting two before they could react?
Aiken Public Safety Sgt. Aaron Dowdy said that as soon as SLED became involved – standard procedure when an officer is shot – the investigation was out of the hands of Aiken officials.
“I’m just as eager as anyone to know what exactly happened that night, but we have to wait on SLED to finish their job first,” he said Friday.
The timeline on that investigation is open-ended, said SLED spokeswoman Kathryn Richardson. County Coroner Tim Carlton said his report wouldn’t be ready for at least another week.
New information released Friday has shed some light on the events that evening, which began about 20 minutes earlier on Teague Street in north Aiken.
According to a police report, Officer Travis Griffin was called to an address in the 700 block of Teague Street at about 9 p.m. to investigate a report of shots being fired.
He spoke to several people at the address who were uncooperative and gave little information. The complainant, an Augusta woman whose name was redacted from the report, told Griffin she was in the home’s front yard when she heard two gunshots. She looked up and saw a black Chevrolet Impala speeding away with Carter behind the wheel.
According to the report, Griffin made sure “everyone was OK” before leaving.
A few minutes later, Griffin had stopped the Impala at Pace’s Run apartments on Brandt Court, about a mile and a half away.
A police report said Carter had stepped from his vehicle and was standing at the back of his car, talking to three officers: Griffin, Richardson and Sgt. Tracy Seymour.
Dowdy said he wouldn’t want to speculate on why the officers didn’t already have their weapons drawn even though there had just been a report of shots being fired with the Impala nearby.
“My understanding is that when things went bad, they went bad fast,” he said.
Before officers could react, the report said, Carter pulled a pistol and shot Griffin in the chest. He was saved from serious injury by his bullet-proof vest. Carter then fired a fatal shot at Richardson, the report said.
Police said Carter was shot and apprehended by other officers who arrived at the scene. Dowdy said two other officers got there almost immediately and pursued Carter, who was caught in a field behind two apartment buildings near the complex office.
Dowdy said at least three officers returned fire, and the shot that took down Carter was fired from some distance away.
Carter is being treated at Medical College of Georgia Hospital. After his release, he will be arrested and held by the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office while he awaits extradition to South Carolina, officials said.
Though Carter had passengers in his car, no others were arrested at the scene.
“There were more people in the car with Carter, but I don’t know how many,” Dowdy said. “My understanding is that they stayed put.”