Police find estimated 129 guns in home of SC police ambush suspect
"It's chilling to see how this house was set up," Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott said. "The officers had no chance whatsoever."
By Jeffrey Collins
FLORENCE, SC — Authorities found approximately 130 guns inside the South Carolina home of a man who set up his house in an upscale neighborhood to ambush police officers coming to question his son about a possible child sex assault, the sheriff investigating the case said Tuesday.
Frederick Hopkins only fired three of the guns on Oct. 3 — a pistol and two military assault rifles, said Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott, who first put the total number of guns in the home at 129, then said it was still an approximation.
One officer was killed and six more wounded. Two Florence County deputies remain in critical condition and a third is also still in the hospital, Lott said.
"It's chilling to see how this house was set up," Lott said. "The officers had no chance whatsoever."
Lott said it was fortunate more officers weren't killed or wounded, but did not go into specifics about what Hopkins allegedly did to plan for the ambush prior to the arrival of three female deputies from the Florence County Sheriff's Office at his home. The deputies were there to serve a search warrant and have a prearranged interview with his 28-year-old son, Seth Hopkins.
All three were shot as they got out of their vehicle. Frederick Hopkins, 74, would fire 39 shots total, Lott said, citing a 13-day search of a six-block crime scene around Hopkins' 6,500-square-foot (604-square-meter) home. The search was helped by a special FBI team that collected evidence in the fatal shootings of five police officers in Dallas in 2016 and deaths of 59 people and wounding of hundreds more at an outdoor concert in Las Vegas last year.
Four police officers from the city of Florence were wounded as they tried to save the deputies. Rescuers had to use a military-style armored vehicle to take the officers away and it took up to 30 minutes to get in position as Hopkins kept firing from his second-story perch, which allowed him a clear view for several hundred yards down the road of his subdivision, authorities said.
Police Sgt. Terrence Carraway was killed. Two other Florence officers were wounded but released from the hospital a short time later. The fourth is recovering at a rehabilitation center in Georgia, authorities said.
Thirteen officers fired nearly 400 rounds back at Hopkins, the sheriff said. He was hurt, but authorities haven't said how he was injured or how he was captured after the nearly two-hour standoff.
Hopkins, his son and an adult who was not identified were in the home during the standoff, along with two children, Lott said at a Tuesday news conference.
No one else in the home was hurt, and investigators are still trying to determine exactly what went on while Frederick Hopkins was shooting at the officers, the sheriff said.
Hopkins is charged with murder and six counts of attempted murder. Solicitor Ed Clements said he wants to wait to see the results of the investigation before deciding whether to seek the death penalty.
Hopkins was a Vietnam veteran who was awarded a marksman badge with pistol bar and a sharpshooter with rifle bar decorations during 11 years of service in the U.S. Army.
His 28-year-old son, Seth Hopkins, has been charged with criminal sexual conduct with a minor against two different girls. An arrest warrant said one of the girls was younger than 11 when the abuse happened nearly 10 years ago. The other girl, who was between 11 and 14, was abused in the past year, a warrant said.
Frederick Hopkins was denied a public defender in a hearing Tuesday where he told the judge he has no money and he wanted to protect the income of his wife, who is a family law attorney in Florence, WPDE-TV reported.
An attorney is not listed in court records for his son.