Stories about previous rural police officers in jeopardy
Deputy slain on domestic dispute call, published 05/03/08No trace found of missing constable; Federal fugitive sought for questioning in Lincolnville case, published 05/16/07Coroner 'confident' body is that of missing constable, published 05/20/07Moncks Corner officers shot; 1 dead, 1 critical; Officer Lonnie Wells was known for helping schoolchildren, published 03/26/07Gunfire, now grief; Cpl. Marcus Stiles declared dead, Gunman vowed to 'finish it', Pfc. Lonnie Wells wounded, then executed, published 03/26/07
SUMMERVILLE — After an intense manhunt late Wednesday, investigators finally found someone who might know something about the shooting death of Colleton County Deputy Dennis Compton.
To help the family
Palmetto Cops Inc., a nonprofit organization, is selling memorial T-shirts to benefit the family of slain Colleton County Deputy Dennis Compton.For more information or to place an order, go to palmettocops.com/give. Shirts are $15 each and all proceeds will go directly to the family.
A multi-agency perimeter was set up around the Indian Springs subdivision, and officers spent more than an hour combing the neighborhoods and stopping cars before they arrested a "person of interest" in the slaying of the 39-year-old deputy in Smoaks early that morning.
S.C. officers killed on duty
Three officers have been killed on duty in the state this year. Six were killed in 2007, four of them in the tri-county area.AUG. 6, 2008: Colleton County Deputy Sheriff Dennis Compton, 39, shot while responding to an activated burglar alarm near the Smoaks community.MAY 3: Orangeburg County Deputy Sheriff William Howell Jr., 46, shot and killed while escorting a woman to retrieve belongings in the Holly Hill home she shared with her husband.FEB. 1: Highway Patrol Lance Cpl. James Haynes, 38, killed in an accident on S.C. Highway 33 while responding to another accident.
"He's only that at this point," said Dorchester County Sheriff Ray Nash. He would not identify the arrested man, but radio traffic indicated that they were looking for Joshua Lewis Petty, 30, of Summerville.
Meanwhile, in Colleton County, two more "persons of interest" were brought in for questioning in the death, said Sheriff George Malone at 11 p.m. He also said the man arrested in Summerville is now there for questioning, too.
Around 9:45 p.m., officers pulled over a car in the subdivision off U.S. Highway 17A, Nash said. A passenger in the car jumped out and was pursued on foot. A bloodhound with the State Law Enforcement Division tracked the man to a nearby location, where he was taken into custody. SLED is the lead agency in the investigation, which is standard procedure in officer-related shootings.
The apprehended man has traffic-related charges from Cottageville and Colleton County, Nash said. Court records show that Petty has been charged with drug possession and assaults. In 2007, he was charged with assault and battery of a high and aggravated nature. And he pleaded guilty to assault and battery in 1996.
The long day began at 3 a.m.
Anthony Buchanan was already having a sleepless night at home when he heard the breathless announcement over the police radio.
"Officer down! Officer down!" an unknown voice shouted.
Buchanan, a corporal with the Colleton County Sheriff's Office, began putting on his SWAT gear when deputies told dispatchers over the radio not to call him to the scene.
That's when Buchanan figured out that the deputy dying from a gunshot wound in front of a Smoaks home was Compton, his cousin and lifelong friend.
The two had dreamed about being police officers together since they were children growing up playing cops and robbers in Virginia.
"When they said not to call me out, I knew it was my cousin," he said Wednesday afternoon.
Compton died shortly after the 3 a.m. shooting, setting off a massive manhunt in northern Colleton County for a suspect or suspects.
Malone said Compton might have come upon a burglary in progress when responding to a home alarm call at 699 Sunflower Drive in Smoaks, located about 20 miles north of Walterboro.
Malone said an alarm company notified 911 and the homeowner's son that the alarm had been triggered at the home while the owner was away. Compton arrived first.
The homeowners' son arrived about 20 minutes later and found Compton lying in the front yard near the driveway with a gunshot wound.
The son, who declined to be interviewed, used Compton's portable radio to call for help.
Malone said they were still investigating whether Compton fired his gun or tried to radio for help. He said it's possible the suspect or suspects may have been wounded.
Authorities did not comment on whether they found any signs of forced entry at the house, or whether any belongings were missing.
Nobody was home when the alarm sounded at the white, ranch-style house. The area near Lodge Highway is sprinkled with houses on large-acreage wooded lots.
Neighbor Virginia Padgett said the woman who lives at the house where the deputy was shot often goes to Walterboro at night to help care for an elderly woman, so it wasn't unusual for her to be away.
What was unusual were the lights and sirens breaking the silence of the early morning.
"In this little community, and I've been living here for 66 years, nothing like this has ever happened," Padgett said. "We have never seen this."
Seventy-five to 100 law enforcement officers soon embarked on a massive manhunt. As dawn broke, a helicopter circled the area.
SLED provided a helicopter, a bloodhound tracking team, a fugitive team and crime-scene technicians. Several police agencies from Colleton County were assisting, as were state troopers. Nash and Charleston County Sheriff Al Cannon both traveled to the scene. "This is a classic example of how law enforcement comes together when something tragic like this happens," Nash said.
Buchanan stayed home. By 3:30 a.m. he was on the phone with his mom in Virginia.
"I figured it was up to me," he said. "My mom just lost it and she had to tell her sister" who lost another son just seven years earlier to a car wreck.
'Cops and robbers'
Compton moved to South Carolina about two years ago in hopes of joining his cousin at the Sheriff's Office. The former government employee started as a correctional officer at the detention center in June 2006.
He became certified as an officer 16 months ago, living a lifelong dream, his cousin said. Buchanan teared up when he talked about Compton receiving his old patrol car when Buchanan got a new one.
"We always played cops and robbers as kids," he said. "We got to live that dream."
Malone described Compton as an honorable family man who was good at his job: "In my opinion, as sheriff, he was one of the best officers that I've had based on his ability to deal with people."
Everyone who talked about Compton used the words "family man."
He had two children, 16 and 3, in Virginia and two stepchildren, 6 and 8, in Colleton County that Buchanan said treated him like a father.
The entire family is taking it hard.
"I don't know how to tell children that their daddy's dead and he's not coming home," he said.
Buchanan joined the sheriff in asking anyone in the community with information about the shooting to come forward.
"If someone knows something, please come forward and let my family have closure," he said.
Visitation for slain Colleton County Sheriff's deputy Dennis Compton will be Friday from 6 to 9 p.m. at the Parker-Rhoden Funeral Home at 117 Paul St. in Walterboro.Funeral services will be at 10 a.m. Saturday at the First Baptist Church of Walterboro, 124 S. Memorial Ave. in Walterboro.Burial will be in Virginia.
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