Only John Ernest Perry Jr. knows why he allegedly shot at Rock Hill police officers last week before one of the officers returned fire, but court records show that Perry is a felon who was not just wanted by police for almost a year for other alleged crimes, but barred by law from having a gun because of convictions dating back 29 years.
Perry, 46, had been on the run for 11 months, court records show, after an arrest for allegedly attacking his own son and a conviction for possessing stolen goods. He failed to show up for weekends in jail, a bench warrant shows.
More, Perry has at least 19 felony convictions, court records show.
The officers were not hurt in the Wednesday night incident and one returned fire, grazing Perry. Perry fled and was caught two counties away in Fairfield County, north of Columbia, Friday night. He was charged with two counts of attempted murder, two weapons charges and two counts of failing to appear in court and remains in the York County jail.
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The officer who fired at Perry is on administrative leave, as is normal in officer-involved shootings. The State Law Enforcement Division is investigating.
Perry has been in prison for selling drugs, receiving stolen goods, assaulting people, and having illegal weapons, court records show. The fact that Perry has been in and out of jail repeatedly and now is charged with trying to kill officers enraged York County Sheriff Bruce Bryant, who said that Perry being free after so many convictions shows yet again the failures of the judicial system in dealing with repeat violent offenders.
“This person is a habitual offender,” Bryant said. “He shot at police officers, and has a history of violence. He’s a danger. This is infuriating.”
Rock Hill police say two patrol officers saw Perry driving erratically Wednesday night. After pulling Perry over, Perry fled and took a shot at the officers who were chasing him and cornered him against a fence. One officer shot back, grazing Perry who still hopped the fence and escaped.
Perry had spent time in prison for being a habitual traffic offender – but his list of convictions are far worse than driving problems. Perry has convictions for crimes of violence and having illegal guns, as well as convictions for selling drugs, court and SLED records show.
Over more than two decades, Perry has spent eight prison and probation stretches, said Pete O’Boyle, spokesman for the S.C. Department of Probation, Parole and Pardon Services, and at one time was classified as an absconder for failing to report to probation agents.
Perry was first convicted in 1987 for stealing a motorcycle and received a suspended sentence as a youthful offender, court records show.
A year later, Perry was charged with shooting a man and having an illegal pistol. Then he spent a stretch in South Carolina prisons for twice failing to stop for police. He was arrested again – twice – for having illegal weapons – and was sent back to prison for a pair of six-month sentences, court documents show. He later was imprisoned for drugs and other crimes including repeat convictions for possession of stolen goods.
In 2014, Perry was arrested yet again. After pleading guilty to possession of stolen goods he disappeared. Perry eluded arrest for 11 months since bench warrants were issued in July 2015 and March of this year, records show.
Perry faces as much as 70 years in prison for all the current charges. This time, he is being held in jail with bond.