One of the four York County police officers shot during a January ambush was hit by a bullet from another police officer, officials said.
The suspect, Christian McCall, now serving life in prison, is legally responsible, authorities said.
That's because McCall started the gunfight and used an assault rifle to shoot at officers. The melee left one dead and three others wounded.
York police Sgt. Kyle Cummings, a member of the York County SWAT team, was wounded by a round that likely came from another officer, authorities said. The bullet that hit Cummings is believed to have been fired by a rifle used by York County Sheriff's Office Lt. Mike Ligon, a SWAT member, said York County Sheriff Kevin Tolson.
Tolson said police believe Cummings was shot as two sets of officers closed in on McCall. Cummings was hit in the upper leg.
The State Law Enforcement Division investigation showed that the bullet that hit Cummings was not the same as the bullets fired by McCall or any bullets fired by the other six officers involved, Tolson said.
The only weapon that could not be eliminated as firing the bullet that hit Cummings was Ligon's rifle, Tolson said.
"We know that it wasn't a round fired by McCall that hit sergeant Cummings," Tolson said.
"But Mr. McCall is totally responsible for every police officer hurt during that incident. And the officer who was killed," Tolson said. "This was a combat-like situation, where split-second decisions had to be made. Every action taken by the officers was made to save lives. These were life and death decisions made by the officers.
“During the search for a suspect that had already assaulted his wife and shot Sgt. Clinton, that suspect ambushed several officers with an AK47 assault rifle and a gunfight ensued. In only a matter of seconds, gunfire was exchanged and three officers sustained injuries, as well as the suspect,” Tolson said.
“While it is likely that the shot that wounded Sergeant Cummings was fired by Lieutenant Ligon, the ultimate responsibility for the attempted murder of Sergeant Cummings rests with Christian Thomas McCall."
Four officers were shot, said Tolson and Kevin Brackett, 16th Circuit Solicitor.
Brackett said the bullet that hit Cummings was a "terrible accident" in a life and death firefight.
"Christian McCall shot at at these officers and they shot back," Brackett said. "He, McCall alone, is responsible for every bullet fired afterward and the shooting of Kyle Cummings."
McCall, 47, is serving life in prison without parole. He pleaded guilty in May to murder and three counts of attempted murder.
McCall pleaded guilty in the death of sheriff's office Sgt. Mike Doty, who died a day after the shooting.
McCall also pleaded guilty to attempted murder for the shooting of sheriff's office Sgt. Randy Clinton, Sgt. Buddy Brown and Cummings.
Clinton was shot first by McCall. Clinton was tracking McCall after McCall beat up his wife at their home near York, prosecutors said.
"It was suppression fire, fired by Lt. Mike Ligon of the sheriff's office, that stopped Mr. McCall from continuing to shoot after sergeant Clinton was wounded," Brackett said. "Lt. Ligon's actions that night were important in saving lives."
Clinton and other officers were saved by Ligon's actions, Brackett said.
After Clinton was shot, more police responded; two teams tracked McCall, according to court testimony in McCall's May guilty plea.
McCall took the assault rifle into nearby woods, Brackett said. McCall, hiding under a deck, then ambushed SWAT members, Brackett said.
McCall also was wounded during the shootout.
Brackett said it is "legally irrelevant" that the bullet that hit Cummings was not fired by McCall.
McCall's lawyer agreed.
16th Circuit Public Defender Harry Dest said he explained to McCall, before the guilty plea, that evidence showed the bullet that hit Cummings came from a police officer, Dest said.
"Mr. McCall was the first to shoot in the direction of the police during the altercation, which ended with the death of officer Doty and the injuries to the others," Dest said.
"Legally where the bullet that wounded officer Cummings came from does not change my client's culpability in the injury to officer Cummings. Mr McCall took full responsibility for that injury and those actions, because his actions set in motion the chain of events that led to officer Cummings being wounded."
Andrew Dys: 803-329-4065, @AndrewDysHerald