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Teen Charged in Officer's Slaying

January 01, 2002

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Teen Charged in Officer's Slaying

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by David Klepper
The Sun News (Myrtle Beach, SC)

Boyd Matthew Meekins, 19, was charged with murder Sunday in the killing of Horry County Sheriff's Lt. Randall Gerald. The officer was killed Saturday.

Boyd Matthew Meekins' run from police ended Sunday night in a ditch in a remote section of northern Horry County - 24 hours after the slaying of an Horry County Sheriff's Department lieutenant.

Meekins, a resident of the Finklea community, is charged with murder in the death of Randy Gerald, a shift supervisor at the J. Reuben Long Detention Center. Gerald's body was found in a parking lot along U.S. 701 Saturday, with three bullets in his chest.

Meekins, 19, did not resist when police took him into custody shortly before 7 p.m. Sunday.

Bloodhounds, a helicopter and more than 50 officers from seven law enforcement agencies assisted in the manhunt.

Meekins was captured three hours after a resident saw him walking down a dirt road less than a mile from the police command post. Officers armed with assault rifles ringed the perimeter and waited for bloodhounds to trace the suspect's scent.

"This was a result of patient, professional law enforcement and the cooperation of dozens of officers and agencies," said Horry County Sheriff Phillip Thompson. "It was successful, but it's a terrible situation."

Gerald was shot at 6:30 p.m. Saturday in the parking lot of a business on U.S. 701, between Loris and the Allsbrook community. He was driving home from work.

Police think Gerald stopped to assist Meekins and his ex-girlfriend, who were arguing in the parking lot.

Meekins was questioned Sunday night. Meekins has a minor record of traffic violations, police said. A .45 mm handgun - the same type used to kill Gerald - was found near where Meekins was apprehended.

According to details released by police, Meekins and an ex-girlfriend got into a dispute Saturday night in a Loris grocery store. She left him and drove south on U.S. 701. Meekins followed in his car. The pair pulled into the parking lot of Ebtron Airflow Measurement and continued arguing.

Gerald stopped to assist and may have thought it was a traffic accident, according to Sgt. Rick Bonney, Horry County Police spokesman.

Gerald was shot in his car, according to Horry County Coroner Robert Edge. He was wearing his uniform, but was driving a personal car.

After the shooting, Meekins' ex-girlfriend flagged down another driver, who drove her to the Loris Police Department. Meekins followed the car and shot at it, according to Bonney.

Police from several jurisdictions joined in the manhunt Saturday night, but were unable to find Meekins. His black Ford Mustang was located a few hours later in Finklea.

Traffic inspections were set up at intersections near Finklea. Authorities checked driver's licenses and opened car trunks.

Authorities set up their command post at the Finklea Career Center. The State Law Enforcement Division assumed command of the manhunt - which is typical whenever an officer is killed - and sent a helicopter to assist in the search, according to SLED spokesman Mike Brown.

At 4 p.m. Sunday, Finklea resident Jermaine Livingston looked out his window and spotted Meekins walking down a dirt road. He quickly realized it was the man described on the wanted poster police had delivered to him that morning. He watched as Meekins disappeared into a dense forest.

"I just saw him walking by and I recognized the long sideburns," Livingston said as police were swarming in front of his home Sunday afternoon. "We decided to call 911."

Police secured a perimeter with an officer positioned about every 100 yards. A team of bloodhounds was sent in to scour the woods, and the SLED helicopter returned to search from the air.

The perimeter tightened as the dogs closed in on Meekins. The sun set, temperatures dropped and officers started to worry the manhunt would continue through a second night.

But three hours later, police discovered footprints. Soon, they found the handgun.

Just before 7 p.m., Meekins was discovered hiding in a ditch.

"It was just a matter of time," said Horry County Police Capt. David Avant. "The dogs do a great job."

Police said they tried to keep Gerald's death from affecting their performance. The last Horry County policeman to be killed was Cpl. Dennis Lyden, who was beaten and shot to death in June 2000 during a routine traffic stop.

After Meekins was taken into custody, dozens of officers returned to the command center for handshakes and somber hugs. Officers from Horry County Police Department, Horry County Sheriff's Department, SLED, Conway Police, Loris Police, Marion County Sheriff's Department and the S.C. Highway Patrol assisted in the manhunt.

"The cold wasn't a concern for these people. We would have stayed out here all night," Thompson said. "We would have stayed until we had reason to think he had gotten past us."

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