Officer Down: Deputy Sheriff Dennis Compton
By Bruce Smith
The Associated Press
SMOAKS, S.C. — A South Carolina sheriff's deputy was shot to death while responding to an early morning home alarm Wednesday, and though authorities were searching for a suspect with dogs and a helicopter, they said they had few leads.
The body of Colleton County Sheriff's Deputy Dennis Compton was found at about 3 a.m. by the son of the owners of the home, which was empty at the time. Compton, 39, had gone to the house after an alarm there went off. A few minutes later, the homeowners' son - called to the home by the alarm company - used the slain officer's radio to report Compton had been shot, said Sheriff George Malone.
Malone said it was unclear whether Compton fired his own weapon, or if more than one suspect was involved.
"We don't have a lot of leads at this point," Malone said during a morning news conference in a neighborhood of small ranch homes near where the deputy died. "If there's a way, God willing, we'll find him."
Authorities set up roadblocks in and around Smoaks, a town just west of Interstate 95, about 70 miles northwest of Charleston. Tracking dogs and a helicopter also were being used in the search.
Compton, a married father, had worked for the sheriff's office for two years - first as a jailer and for the past 16 months as a deputy, Malone said.
"Deputy Compton was an honorable man, he was a family man," said Malone, who called the deputy "one of the best officers I had."
Neighbor Virginia Padgett, 66, said the woman who owns the house stays elsewhere several nights a week to care for elderly people. She said she was awakened by police responding to the shooting.
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"Normally we never hear that many sirens in such a little town," said Padgett.