A Vietnam veteran who bragged online about maintaining his target-shooting skills was being held Thursday on charges that he shot seven law enforcement officers, killing one, when deputies tried to serve a search warrant at his home.
FLORENCE, S.C. (AP) — The Vietnam veteran and disbarred lawyer accused of shooting seven law enforcement officers, killing one, bragged online about his marksmanship and love for the “smell of gunpowder” in the years before the deadly standoff, records and social media posts unearthed Thursday showed.
Frederick Hopkins lost his law license in the 1980s for mishandling money and faced several minor criminal charges in recent years, including disorderly conduct in 2014. It was around the time of his disbarment that he got serious about amateur target-shooting, according to the records and posts.
More details also emerged about the two-hour standoff in which authorities say Hopkins’ gunfire prevented officers from rescuing comrades who lay bleeding on the ground. The slain officer, a 30-year veteran, was tearfully described as the “epitome of a community police officer” by his chief.
Two wounded city officers were released from the hospital. A third officer was listed in serious but stable condition, the police chief said. He said he did not know the conditions of three wounded sheriff’s deputies.
Hopkins is accused of opening fire Wednesday from his home in an affluent South Carolina neighborhood after deputies tried to carry out a search warrant. He also allegedly held children hostage inside, authorities said.
It was not clear exactly how the confrontation ended. Authorities would say only that the gunman released the children as he was taken into custody, authorities said.
Hopkins was hospitalized with a head injury and unable to speak with officers, Columbia, South Carolina, television station WIS reported Thursday.
The warrant involved an accusation that a 27-year-old person at the home sexually assaulted a foster child who lives there, Florence County Chief Deputy Glenn Kirby said.
Back in 2016, the 74-year-old Hopkins posted photos on Facebook of guns set up for target practice, bragging that he was the state’s 2011 “3-Gun Silhouette Champion.” In a 2014 post, he said he celebrated his 70th birthday at a range by repeatedly firing his M14 rifle, which he “set up exactly like the one I used in Vietnam.”
“I have been shooting competitively since 1984 and lovin’ it. I just love the smell of gunpowder in the mornin’s,” the post said.
His competitive shooting would have begun around the time he lost his law license over $18,000 in wrongfully collected attorney fees. A court order shows that the state Supreme Court in 1984 allowed Hopkins to pay back the debt over time and surrender his license rather than complete a six-month jail term.
Court documents also show that he was injured in Vietnam and received disability payments. The filing does not elaborate on the injury.
During the standoff, the sheriff’s armored personnel carrier was brought in to recover the wounded.
“Fire was being shot all over. The way this suspect was positioned, his view of fire was several hundred yards. So he had an advantage,” Florence County Sheriff Kenney Boone told reporters.
Florence Police Chief Allen Heidler estimated Thursday that it took a half-hour to reach some of the wounded officers.
The slain officer, Terrence Carraway, 52, of Darlington, was just shy of 31 years of service with the Florence Police Department.
Heidler described Carraway as the “epitome of a community police officer” and a guy who “laughed all the time.”
Carraway “was a giant of a man, but he was the proverbial gentle giant, and I loved him,” the police chief said.
Authorities did not identify any of the wounded officers.
The violence stunned the area, where many people have been dealing with the aftermath of Hurricane Florence.
Florence, a city of 37,000 in South Carolina’s northeastern corner, sits at the convergence of Interstates 95 and 20 northwest of the state’s well-known “Grand Strand” of beaches.
Byron Black, who lives near the subdivision where the shooting happened, said he knew both the slain officer and the children of the suspect and described the Hopkins family as “good people.”
“You never know how stuff will happen,” he said.
He said Carraway, his youth football coach in the late 1990s, was a down-to-earth community leader with whom young people felt comfortable discussing their problems.
“If you got in trouble, he would try his best to get you out of it or tell you the steps you need to take to get out of it,” he said, later adding: “He was one of the good cops.”
Kinnard reported from Columbia, South Carolina. Associated Press researcher Monica Mathur in New York contributed to this report.