Deputy pinned down by gunfire bargained for time

COLUMBIA, South Carolina (AP) — A deputy in South Carolina who was pinned behind his SUV by gunfire for 17 minutes kept talking to the suspect to buy time for backup to arrive, Berkeley County Sheriff Duane Lewis said on Wednesday.

Lewis said the deputy and other officers who fired on Tuesday afternoon were not wounded. Deputies killed the suspect, identified by the coroner’s office as 51-year-old Joseph Hart.

The confrontation started after a neighbour complained Hart was speeding down a street in Huger, about 40 kilometres northeast of Charleston, authorities said.

Hart pulled a gun, the neighbour called 911, and when a Berkeley County deputy arrived, Hart hid where he could fire on the deputy and the officer couldn’t safely retreat, Lewis said.

According to the sheriff, the deputy and Hart started yelling back and forth as they fired at each other.

Lewis said it took 17 minutes for another officer to get to the area, which is so rural it doesn’t have reliable mobile phone service.

But then, officers arrived from everywhere. The sheriff estimated 60 officers were in the area by the time Hart, hiding under a shed, said he would surrender.

Instead, Hart fired at a deputy approaching to arrest him and was killed by officers more than 30 minutes after the shooting began, the sheriff said.

Lewis said deputies still do not know much about Hart who did not have a permanent address and was staying with friends in the area. They don’t know what set him off on Tuesday.