|Magistrate’s officer shot outside house in Abbeville; Deputy found dead inside
By JEFFREY COLLINS, The Associated Press
ABBEVILLE, S.C. -- Two law enforcement officers were killed Monday, and police continued a standoff with one of the suspected gunmen late into the evening, authorities said.
The standoff began after a magistrate’s officer who authorities identified as 63-year-old Donnie M. Ouzts went to the small white house along S.C. 72, just west of downtown Abbeville, about 9 a.m. Monday.
When he didn’t return to his office, two deputies went to the house and almost immediately put out an"officer-down" call. Officers recovered Ouzts, who had been fatally wounded, from the scene, authorities said.
One of the deputies, Danny Wilson, was found dead inside the house after officers stormed the home just before 9 p.m., a law enforcement source said on the condition of anonymity. The second deputy, who was not identified, escaped uninjured.
Police had been attempting to contact the man inside the house, who was identified as 36-year-old Steven Bixby. Another suspect, whom the same source identified as Bixby’s father, has surrendered to authorities.
Ouzts was shot to death about 25 yards from the front door of the residence, Abbeville County Coroner Ronnie Ashley said.
As daylight faded, an armored vehicle passed in front of the house. A voice came over a loudspeaker and urged those inside to leave the home."Please give up. We don’t want anyone else to get hurt," the voice said."We told you we are not going to leave. We want you to come out."
Police did not know how many people were inside the house. Several crashes could be heard coming from the home about an hour after dusk, but the house was completely dark, making it impossible to see what was happening. About 8:30 p.m., a quick burst of flames lit up the silent night sky.
Soon afterward, emergency vehicles with sirens flashing approached the home. Greenville television station WHNS showed footage of officers with flashlights storming the home. At about 8:50 p.m., about six shots were heard, followed three minutes later with several bursts of gunfire.
Neighbor Gene Land said Bixby was angry because the state planned to take some of his land to widen the highway. Land, who lives about a half-mile away, said Bixby had been living in the house with his mother and father for more than 10 years.
“Some days he was a good guy; some days he was moody," Land said.
A clash between state Department of Transportation workers and someone at the house on S.C. 72 Thursday led to the police going to the home Monday, DOT spokesman Pete Poore said Monday night.
“The work was approaching that location," Poore said. He said agency workers were putting up stakes showing where the state’s right of way was when someone from the house came outside and told them to take up the stakes.
Poore said he didn’t know what was said, but"that was the incident that precipitated the law enforcement visit today."
Officers from the Abbeville Police Department, the Abbeville County Sheriff’s Office, the Greenwood County Sheriff’s Office, the State Law Enforcement Division and the South Carolina Highway Patrol were on the scene Monday night.
An autopsy was scheduled Monday afternoon on Ouzts at Anderson Regional Medical Center to determine the exact cause of his death, Ashley said. Ouzts worked as a constable for Abbeville County Magistrate Tommy Ferguson.
Ouzts, whose first great-grandchild was born three months ago, had worked in the magistrate’s office for several years, his son Chris Ouzts said.
“He was a wonderful family man and a good Christian man," his son told the Anderson Independent-Mail for today’s editions."He loved everybody, and anybody will tell you that he always had a smile."
One of the favorite parts of his father’s job was working in the same building as his wife of 40 years, Jean, their son said. Ouzts visited his wife each morning, even after the county moved his administrative offices to another location.
“But he still got to see Mama every day," his son said tearfully."He saw her this morning. He took her the mail."
The Greenville News contributed to this report.