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Crime & Courts

South Carolina Mass Shooter Gets Maximum Sentence For Killing Two Cops In 2018 Ambush

“No matter the penalty, there’s no justice in this.”

Over five years after perpetrating a mass shooting at his upscale home in Florence, South Carolina, Frederick T. Hopkins, Jr., 79, was given the maximum sentence with mixed reviews: Two life terms for the officers he killed plus 150 years for the officers he attempted to kill.

The U.S. Army veteran pleaded guilty to seven felony counts just last week (October 12, 2023), accepting a bench trial in exchange for a jury trial to avoid the death penalty — a punishment originally sought by prosecutors. For approximately five years, the case was enshrouded by a suppression or “gag” order that expired upon Frederick’s abrupt plea deal.

Only now are the victimized permitted to address, reflect and heal from the atrocities Hopkins inflicted upon them and the Florence community. Impact statements categorized the former attorney as a coward unworthy of infamy or life itself, suggesting he belonged in “the fires of hell” rather than a state prison.

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Friends and family of Florence PD sergeant Terrence Carraway await Frederick’s verdict. (Andrew Fancher/FITSNews)

AMBUSH IN FLORENCE

On October 3, 2018, Hopkins ambushed five deputies as they attempted to execute a search warrant on his adult son, 32-year-old Seth David Hopkins. Investigators with the Florence County Sheriff’s Office (FCSO) believed Seth Hopkins was collecting underwear from a 12-year-old foster child — one whom he was allegedly assaulting in his bedroom.

In an exclusive interview with FITSNews, FCSO investigator Ben Price said he was closest to the home when the elder Hopkins — a trained marksman — opened fire on deputies through a glass patio door. Investigator Sara Miller was shot in the stomach and fled while investigator Farrah Turner, 37, was struck unconscious in the front yard.

Hopkins then exited the home and continued firing his semi-automatic rifle from the porch, once again hitting Turner in the back. He then set his iron sights on Price — who unloaded every round from his Glock service pistol before rushing to a nearby tree line.

“I tried getting back to my vehicle, but Fred proceeded to shoot at me into the woods,” Price said. “Obviously, he was a bad shot, again. He didn’t hit me. He hit a couple of trees around me.”

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Hopkins fired upwards of sixty rounds across two magazines during his initial encounter with deputies. Unbeknownst to law enforcement, the retired artillery coordinator for the 101st Airborne Division was just warming up. His brick-cased, 6,500 square foot home had a birds-eye view of the cul-de-sac and Vintage Place community. 

Price says he was pinned down and unarmed for the remainder of the ambush, radioing fellow officers and informing them of alternate routes to 932 Ashton Drive. As they began converging on the scene, Frederick switched to an outfitted .308 rifle with a longer range. Investigators believe he used three separate weapons during the shooting, although 126 guns were later seized from the property.

Florence Police Department (FPD) sergeant Terrence Carraway, 57, was struck in the chest from approximately 300 yards away upon his arrival. Four additional cops were injured — three FPD officers and one FCSO deputy — before an armored military vehicle escorted the wounded and expedited the negotiations.

Carraway died at the scene. Farrah Turner underwent nine surgeries — including the amputation of both of legs — before succumbing to her injuries 19 days later.

Despite being able-bodied prior to the shooting, Frederick was leaning over a walker when he surrendered to authorities that afternoon. The heavyset Vietnam Veteran left investigators with a crime scene six blocks long and 100 yards wide.

In 2019, Seth pleaded guilty to one count of second-degree criminal sexual conduct with a minor and was sentenced to 20 years in prison with 437 days of credit for time served.

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Frederick T. Hopkins Jr. giving two thumbs up en route to his sentencing. (Andrew Fancher/FITSNews)

FIVE YEARS LATER …

Hopkins was confined to a wheelchair on Thursday as deputies with the Richland County Sheriff’s Department (RCSD) rolled him into an overcrowded Florence County courtroom for sentencing. The weathered inmate in striped pajamas did not speak on the record — whispering only to his legal team led by attorney Boyd Young.

Prior to victim impact statements, Hopkins’ defense introduced David Ferrier, a fellow Vietnam veteran, published author and career private investigator who reviewed Frederick’s military background and medical history. He noted the mass shooters lengthy battle with PTSD following his retirement from the U.S. Army in 1977.

Hopkins’ Bronze Star and Purple Heart — awarded for injuries sustained during the North Vietnamese attack of Fire Base Henderson in 1970 — was not enough to sway the courtroom. Especially in light of new information presented by S.C. twelfth circuit solicitor Ed Clements which indicated the ambush was planned at least one day in advance.

Under oath, Price rejected the idea that Vietnam tragedies were responsible for the ambush.

“Having to deal with PTSD myself, I can’t imagine using that as an excuse to do what happened … It hurts my heart that someone would disgrace the memories of so many brave men and women who served in the Vietnam War — to use that as an excuse to murder your own countrymen,” Price said during his impact statement.

Hopkins did little more than watch as nearly 20 people delivered statements during his widely televised sentencing. S.C. circuit court judge Eugene Griffith Jr. listened as friends and family of fallen officers — as well as active duty law enforcement — testified on how October 3, 2018 changed their lives forever.

Before receiving the verdict, Frederick looked back and smiled at his only son in attendance, Kyle Hopkins. The 28-year-old watched as his father received two consecutive life sentences for the murder of Carraway and Turner, on top of 30 years for every attempted murder charge. At the time of his sentencing, Frederick was 1,842 days into his newfound life imprisonment.

“I hope that’s a message to others,” Griffith said. “This type of behavior is not to be tolerated.”

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR …

Andrew Fancher (Travis Bell)

Andrew Fancher is a Lone Star Emmy award-winning journalist from Dallas, Texas. Cut from a bloodline of outlaws and lawmen alike, he was the first of his family to graduate college which was accomplished with honors. Got a story idea or news tip for Andy? Email him directly and connect with him socially across Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

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