A South Carolina sheriff’s deputy died of his wounds on Tuesday, after he was reportedly ambushed and shot while responding to a domestic disturbance call.
The deputy has been identified as Austin Derek Aldridge, 25, who was pronounced dead at around 9:30 p.m.
“He was ambushed, he was shot,” Spartanburg County Sheriff Wright said at a press conference. “I’ll trust Christ in this. I’m confused. I’m hurt. I’m angry.”
As reported by WYFF News 4, Aldridge, a three-year veteran of the Spartanburg County Sheriff’s Office, was responding to a domestic call at a home in the Chaffee Drive area of the Oak Forest subdivision, at around 3:20 p.m. Deputy Aldridge was approaching the home when he was shot by the suspect, Duane Heard.
Heard immediately took off, but witnesses were able to provide a description of the vehicle as well as inform authorities what direction it was heading in.
“I headed back in and called 911 and let them know there was an officer shot and we need assistance now,” said one witness, describing the attempts of neighbors to help the fallen deputy. Other sheriff’s deputies quickly secured the scene as EMS responded to treat Aldridge; meanwhile, another deputy spotted the suspect’s vehicle fleeing.
The deputy attempted a traffic stop and Heard at first acted as though he would surrender. He then allegedly shot at the approaching deputy, who returned fire, shooting Heard twice. The unnamed deputy was apparently uninjured in the exchange.
Undaunted, Heard then continued to drive down the road he was traveling on, before crashing near a business. Heard reportedly fled the vehicle, fired on several more deputies who responded to the scene, and then ran into the nearby woods. After establishing a tight perimeter, a SWAT team and canine deputies located and apprehended Heard.
“Our men showed great restraint knowing that one of our guys had just been ambushed without firing any shots at him. They just arrested him,” Sheriff Wright explained at the press conference.
“We are the good guys. We do it right and we did it right. I just ask you to pray for our deputy.”
Sheriff Wright added that the Spartanburg County Sheriff’s Office would not be intimated by the shocking murder of one of their own.
“Our men and women will resolve, we will not quit and we’re not going to lose either,” he said. “We want our community to know that we’ll heal. We’re hurting. We’re healing. We’ll still provide the best protection we can give to y’all.”
Heard is still in the hospital, and the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division has taken over investigating the case.
In the meantime, Spartanburg County Coroner Rusty Clevenger implored the media to respect the privacy of the fallen deputy’s family.
“Please keep the family of Deputy Aldridge and his extended family at the Sheriff’s Office in your thoughts and prayers during their time of loss and grief,” he said.
“Deputy Aldridge’s widow and family have asked for privacy in the initial stages of her grief.”
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