It was April 27th at 0340 hours, when a newspaper delivery man noticed he was being stalked a shadowy figure in a black SUV. Thomas Scott saw the car idling up the street on one delivery and then rolling slowly past him on another. He had no idea why this was happening, but there was no denying that it was. Scott later related, “Every time I turned around he was on the same street I was on.”
Thomas called the police.
With a license plate and vehicle description on hand, Officer Alexander Broder and his field training Officer conducted a vehicle contact at Wilmot and King in the city of Columbia South Carolina. Broder had just graduated from the South Carolina Criminal Justice Academy and only had been on the street for five days.
As he made his approach, the driver of the SUV — Blakely Jernigan — swung the door o open and fired a handgun at Officer Alexander Broder, striking him in the chest. Blakely then fled. Officer Broder will see day six of his career, because the vest he was wearing stopped the bullet.
Columbia P.D. Investigators were able to locate Blakely again at his apartment, which was one of four separate apartments in a brick house. SWAT cordoned off the perimeter and trained negotiators were able to contact Blakely on the phone. The negotiations appeared to be going well. Blakely Jernigan’s father was at the scene assisting with negotiations. It appeared that Blakely would be exiting out the back door of the house to surrender.
Instead of coming out the back door with his hands as he had promised Jernigan burst out of a side door of the home firing an AK-47. The two SWAT officers assigned to that side of the house returned fire. Their fire was more accurate than Blakely’s and he went down immediately.
SWAT’s Job Continues
With the suspect down the residence was cleared by SWAT and the search revealed that 22 year old Blakely Jernigan was no longer the smiling honor student described by high school class-mates as “friendly” and “popular.” Blakely Jernigan — who had been arrested in the past — possessed “distributive amounts of cocaine and marijuana,” in the home.
Before Jernigan had cut through an adjacent apartment to exit the house firing, he had taken the time to turn on the gas jets on the stove of his apartment. If the SWAT team would have used a flash bang on the entry it could have been tragic. Officers also found bomb making materials inside the apartment.
The team located Blakely’s girlfriend “passed out” in the tub, and she was rescued from the dangerous environment.
The scene was put on hold until the State Law Enforcement Division’s Bomb Squad could be called to the scene for officer’s discovered Blakely had strapped a home-made bomb on his person. The Bomb Squad arrived and meticulously did their thing to make the scene safe.
Good Decisions, Good Tactics
As hard as Blakely Jernigan tried, no one died on this night but Blakely Jernigan. That was not by accident. Here are some of the decisions that were made that made the difference.
1. Thomas Scott, a news-paper delivery man paid attention and spotted a man whose actions he thought looked suspicious. He called 911 and then called again later to give the police the license plate number when he saw the man again.
2. The Columbia Police Department decided to issue officers vests and make them mandatory to wear for all patrol officers.
3. Investigators who located Blakely called out SWAT.
4. Negotiators made every effort to attempt a peaceful resolution.
5. The SWAT commander ordered an evacuation of the area, but decided not to attempt an evacuation of adjacent apartments. He determined the attempt to evacuate would endanger the citizens more than letting them sleep. As it turned out, Blakely was armed with an AK-47 and was a shooter. A rescue attempt would have given a shooter targets.
6. The perimeter was sealed off. An exit for an apartment, known to not be Jernigan’s was covered. As it turned out that was the escape point chosen by the suspect.
7. Jernigan opened fire first, but officers assigned to that point on the perimeter were decisive and fired accurately, stopping the threat and killing the suspect. In this case accuracy was essential because Jernigan had turned himself into a bomb.
8. The house was cleared and a possible gas explosion was averted as well as occupants were rescued.
9. The scene was locked down, including the explosives-laden suspect, until the arrival of the bomb squad.
10. The scene and the explosives were neutralized by explosives professionals.
11. Chief Randy Scott conducted a timely, top-notch, and thorough post-shooting press conference. Chief Scott said he was relieved none of his officers were seriously wounded, adding that they are, “the men and women that I love every day.”
Wow! These are great words, Chief.
In conclusion one has to say that in this case as hard as the suspect tried, no one but he, died. That is thanks to one alert citizen and the Columbia South Carolina Police Department. If this incident was a Broadway performance this response would be worthy of a standing ovation.
Bravo Columbia Police Department!