Crime

‘We run to danger’: York County deputies shootout with accused killer of 2

York County deputies exchanged gunfire with a suspect Friday night after a double homicide near Rock Hill, Sheriff Kevin Tolson said Saturday.

The suspect, Jimar Frazier Neely, 28, was shot by an officer after Neely shot at deputies and has non-life-threatening injuries, Tolson said.

No deputies were hurt in the incident, Tolson and sheriff’s office officials said.

“We will continue to run to danger,” Tolson said. “They shoot — we are going to shoot back. These courageous men who were involved last night in the face of gunfire, in the face of danger, continued to pursue this suspect until he was in custody for the safety of this community.”

Tolson declined to name the deputies involved in the shootout, citing the ongoing investigation.

The two men that deputies say were killed before the shootout between Neely and law enforcement officers were identified late Saturday by York County Coroner Sabrina Gast.

Robin Thompson, 50, of Hickory Grove in western York County, was killed when he was shot while inside a car near 899 Rivercrest Drive, Gast said. Thompson died at the scene, deputies and coroner officials said.

Timothy Barber, 55, of Rock Hill, was the second man shot at the scene. Barber died at Piedmont Medical Center in Rock Hill from his injuries, Gast said.

Because the investigation remains ongoing, Sheriff Tolson has not disclosed other details about the shootings, including whether Neely targeted the victims.

Neely, the suspect, faces 10 charges with more pending, police and jail records show.

He is charged with two counts of murder, attempted murder, four counts of shooting into a dwelling, burglary, and two counts of possession of a weapon during a violent crime. He also is being held awaiting other warrants as the State Law Enforcement Division investigates the shooting at the officers that came after the two other victims were killed.

Under South Carolina law, homicides with more than one victim are eligible for prosecutors to seek the death penalty. Prosecutors have not said whether they intend to seek capital punishment against Neely.

The incident started at around 7:45 Friday night, according to Tolson and a sheriff’s office written statement said. Deputies responding to a shooting at 899 Rivercrest Rd. near Rock Hill found two men with gunshot wounds, sheriff’s officials said in the statement.

Then at around 9:30 p.m. Friday, deputies received a call of shots fired on Red River Road in Rock Hill after a burglary at a home, Tolson said.

Shots were fired at that location but no one was hit, Tolson said. Information from that crime scene led to Neely, Tolson said.

At the intersection of Peachtree Road and Neelys Store Road, deputies tried to stop a Dodge Charger driven by Neely, officers said.

At 9:42 p.m., deputies and the driver exchanged gunfire, officers said. The driver, identified as Neely, ran after the shots were fired but was caught, deputies said.

There are no other suspects other than Neely in all the incidents and shootings, Tolson said.

When encountering Neely, officers handled a clear threat to public safety by a suspect who was armed, Tolson said.

“We don’t know the relationship between the suspect and the deceased victims, but there was a relationship with the suspect and a victim on Red River Road,” Tolson said. “The information that was gained from that incident led to our encounter with Mr. Neely on Neely Store Road.”

Tolson said that the shooting of Mike Doty and three other officers in January 2018 strengthened the resolve of deputies to continue to serve the public and keep people safe. Doty was killed in that incident. Deputies Randy Clinton and Buddy Brown, along with York Police Department Sgt. Kyle Cummings, were wounded in a shootout with domestic violence suspect Christian McCall in January 2018. McCall is serving life in prison for murder and attempted murder.

“We will not stop fighting,” Tolson said.

The investigation after Friday night’s deaths and shootout involving officers now has two parts.

The State Law Enforcement Division is investigating the officer-involved shooting part of the incident, said Thom Berry, SLED spokesman. Sheriff’s office detectives are handling the investigation into the two homicides and the burglary and shooting on Red River Road before deputies had the shootout with Neely, Tolson said.

Neely is expected to have a court hearing sometime over the weekend after all warrants are served, Tolson said.

The law enforcement officer-involved shooting was the second in York County in five days. On Sunday, S.C. Highway Patrol Trooper Alex Wise of Rock Hill was shot by a suspect after a traffic stop. Wise then returned fire and wounded the suspect.

The suspect in Sunday’s shooting, Willie Bernard Wright, is in the York County jail facing attempted murder and other charges. Wright was denied bond Saturday in a hearing at the jail courtroom.

Wright faces life in prison without parole if convicted because of previous convictions for attempted murder and other crimes, and is banned by state and federal law from having a gun.

Sixth Circuit Solicitor Kevin Brackett, who was at Wright’s court hearing Saturday, said after it that his office will vigorously prosecute cases where suspects shoot at police officers who are trying to protect the public and enforce the law.

“This is not just an assault on that individual, it is an assault on society and the rule of law,” Brackett said. “Society has rules we all have to live by. Police are empowered with the authority to enforce the rules. When you attack a police officer who is trying to enforce the rules, it is a very serious indication you have no regard for the rules, you have no regard for the law.”

Brackett said that anyone who shoots at a police officer is showing a disregard for the safety of the officer and others.

“If you are willing to shoot at a man who is armed and can shoot back, it causes us a great deal of concern for the safety of the community with that person at-large. We are going to take a very hard line in cases like that.”

The officer-involved shooting Friday night is the 26th in South Carolina in 2019.

Check back for updates to this article.

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