A 74-year-old Vietnam War veteran and disbarred lawyer has been identified as the primary suspect in a Florence, South Carolina shooting that left one police officer dead and seven people (including six other law enforcement officers) wounded on Wednesday.
Frederick Thomas Hopkins is being held by local law enforcement in connection with the shooting, according to reporter Meg Kinnard of The Associated Press. He has yet to be transferred to a detention center for booking and arraignment because he reportedly sustained a head injury during yesterday’s attack.
Hopkins was hospitalized at Carolinas Hospital System, which was placed on lockdown in the aftermath of the shooting.
A local law enforcement source told us the alleged shooter is “crazy” and has been involved in several domestic incidents.
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As we noted in our original coverage, deputies with the Florence County sheriff’s office were in the process of serving a search warrant at the home of Hopkins’ wife – Florence, S.C. family law attorney Cheryl Turner-Hopkins – when they were fired upon.
Cheryl Turner-Hopkins was not at the home at the time of the shooting.
“According to our sources, the search warrant sought information related to an ongoing child sexual assault investigation,” we reported yesterday.
That information has now been confirmed.
According to Kinnard’s report, the search warrant “involved an accusation that a 27-year-old person at the home sexually assaulted a foster child who lives in the home.”
That individual has now been identified as Seth Hopkins, who was wounded during the shooting. Seth Hopkins’ Facebook page indicated he was employed by his mother’s law firm.
“The search warrant was only for Seth’s room and for Seth’s things,” a source familiar with the situation told us. “(Frederick Hopkins) set up his rifle and ambushed the officers.”
Three Florence County deputies – all females – were wounded in the initial hail of gunfire. When officers of the Florence, S.C. police department responded to reports of shots being fired at the residence, they also came under fire.
One of those responding officers – 52-year-old Terrence Carraway of Darlington, S.C. – was killed during the shooting.
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Carraway (above) was a thirty-year veteran of the Florence police department.
According to his chief, Allen Heidler, Carraway was “the bravest police officer I have ever known,”
As of this writing, two of the deputies were in critical condition with gunshot wounds to the upper torso while another was in stable condition with a gunshot wound to the leg. According to our sources, one of the wounded deputies “isn’t doing well” and reportedly coded – or experienced cardiopulmonary arrest – twice after being hospitalized.
Meanwhile, a Florence police officer reportedly had to have a part of their skull removed after getting struck by a bullet.
“I have never heard such gun(fire) and seen so much blood,” one neighborhood witness, Kristie Weatherford Flowers, wrote on Facebook.
Flowers – who was traveling home from work at the time of the shooting – said her car was hit by gunshots.
“Three bullets hit my car and I could have been gone in a second but for some reason I was spared,” she wrote. “Officers that protect us and keep us safe were injured and killed tonight and children’s lives were put in jeopardy. My street looks like a war zone.”
Another neighborhood witness captured the sounds of the shooting as she stood in her front yard …
“Officers went there unknowing the firepower the suspect had,” Florence County sheriff Kenney Boone told reporters in the aftermath of the shooting.
Hopkins is a trained shooter. Recent posts from his Facebook page – which was taken down late Wednesday – showcased his various weapons. Meanwhile, Hopkins touted his proficiency as a shooter.
In a 2012 post, he wrote of entering a shooting competition in an effort to “get my old form back” – citing his victory in the previous year’s “3-Gun Silhouette” championship. A three-gun championship is a competitive shooting event in which participants use rifles, pistols and shotguns at varying distances and from various positions.
“I have been shooting competitively since 1984 and lovin’ it,” Hopkins wrote in one post back in 2014. “I just love the smell of gunpowder in the mornin’s.”
Hopkins boasted of owning an M-14 automatic rifle, which was the primary combat rifle issued to American soldiers during the Vietnam War (until it was replaced by the M-16).
Here is a screen cap from Thomas’ since-deleted Facebook page showing one of his rifles …
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Hopkins claimed to have been exposed to Agent Orange – a herbicide used during the Vietnam War in an effort to deny food and vegetational cover to the National Liberation Front of South Vietnam (a.k.a. the Viet Cong). This exposure led to a cancer scare for which he received treatment at a U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) hospital in Columbia, S.C.
“I was exposed to heavy doses of ‘Agent Orange’ while performing combat duties with the 101st Airborne Division in Viet Nam in 1969-1970,” he wrote in one post. “I have been fighting this disease for five years on my own and the VA finally found out why I had pain and swollen nodules in my neck.”
It is not immediately clear what prompted Hopkins to allegedly open fire on deputies and police officers …
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