Fort Mill Times

Stepson, 51, faces murder charge in Indian Land shooting

James Pruitt, of Indian Land is taken on a stretcher to a helicopter waiting to transport him to Carolinas Medical Center.
James Pruitt, of Indian Land is taken on a stretcher to a helicopter waiting to transport him to Carolinas Medical Center.

An Indian Land murder turned into a police standoff before the accused triggerman turned a gun on himself.

Shooting victim Robert Franklin Bethea of 11215 McAlpine Circle died Friday after being shot multiple times, Lancaster County Deputy Coroner Marie Broome said. The 74-year-old died in the center of his yard about 20 feet from his front door, she said.

Bethea was shot four times, Broome said. One of the bullets hit Bethea's heart. An autopsy and toxicology test were completed Saturday, she said.

The shooting marks the first homicide of the year for the Lancaster County Sheriff's Office.

James Calvin Pruitt, 51, also of 11215 McAlpine Circle, was airlifted to Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte, where he was listed in critical condition Saturday morning, Broome said. No information on Pruitt's status was available Monday, according to hospital officials. However, Lancaster County Sheriff Barry Faile said Pruitt was still listed in critical condition Monday morning.

Lancaster police have identified Pruitt -- Bethea's stepson, who lived in an apartment adjacent to Bethea's home -- as the shooter, Faile said.

"We have a warrant for murder for his arrest," Faile said of Pruitt.

Other charges may be pending against Pruitt, Faile said.

The charge Pruitt faces stems from a shooting that occurred around 5:50 p.m. Friday at 11215 McAlpine Circle. According to a report from Lancaster County Sheriffs Office, a neighbor told authorities she heard five shots while she was in her home and ran outside where, she found Bethea on the ground.

"When we arrived on the scene, the officer saw someone lying on the ground," Faile said of Bethea. "He saw a door close on an out building later identified as an apartment."

The apartment is anchored 40 yards to the right of Bethea's home, the report notes.

Police found Bethea lying face up in his yard, Faile said.

According to the report, Bethea appeared to have four gun shot wounds to his chest.

"There was a standoff that occurred," Broome said.

The county's SWAT Team, in addition to local and county fire personnel, emergency medical services and the State Law Enforcement Division, assisted the Lancaster County Sheriff's Office during the standoff, Faile said.

That standoff lasted nearly five hours. At some point, police thought they heard something suspicious, Faile said.

"We heard what we thought might have been a shot," Faile said. "We entered the apartment about 10:15. There was a white male lying on the floor with a self-inflicted shot wound."

Authorities later identified that man as Pruitt. Faile declined to say where Pruitt shot himself; however, Faile said, Pruitt shot himself with a .38-caliber handgun.

No one else was in injured during the shootings and no one else was in the apartment, police said.

"We're waiting to confirm if the same weapon was used (on Bethea)," Faile said.

On Monday, exactly what sparked the shootings remained a mystery.

"We are still interviewing folks and trying to find out the history there," Faile said.

There were no 911 emergency calls or other calls for help from the home, according to authorities.

Authorities on Monday had not served the arrest warrant against Pruitt.