A South Carolina man wearing full tactical gear and equipped with a rifle was found dead Wednesday morning after luring police officers into a shooting ambush, authorities said.
One officer was injured after three sheriff’s deputies responded to a 911 call early Wednesday morning in the Carriage Oaks neighborhood of Columbia, S.C., Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott said at a news conference.
Lott said that 25-year-old Frederick Westfall appears to have killed himself after shooting at the deputies who responded to his fake 911 call.
“I’m fortunate I’m not standing here and talking about a deputy being killed like we had in Spartanburg and in Cayce,” Lott said, in apparent reference to two recent incidents where police responding to domestic violence calls were killed by a shooter, the State reported. “Same type situation in that it was an ambush.”
At around 5:30 a.m. Wednesday morning, three deputies responded to an address in Carriage Oaks after a 911 dispatcher received two separate calls from a man who said he’d heard a woman screaming for help. Upon arriving at the scene to investigate, the deputies went to the address given by the caller and found a woman who told them nothing was wrong.
“The lady says nothing is wrong, she hasn’t called, she’s not being assaulted, she has no clue why they would be called to her house,” Lott said.
As they were leaving, Deputy Joseph Shannonhouse was the first officer to get into his vehicle. Lott said that shots rang out as he began driving away. One bullet shattered the passenger window, sending glass shards into Shannonhouse’s face and eyes, and lodged into the dashboard of his patrol vehicle, the sheriff said.
Shannonhouse was able to retreat under fire while the other deputies called for assistance. Lott said that more than 15 shots were fired.
After more deputies arrived, they checked the area and discovered a person “laying there dead” at a house neighboring the residence they were called to, Lott said.
Authorities identified the dead man as Westfall, who investigators confirmed made two fake calls to 911.
Lott said it was clear that his deputies did not kill Westfall because none of them had fired their weapons. He called the incident “an ambush to kill cops.”
Westfall had no previous encounters with law enforcement, according to the sheriff. Police have not identified a motive for the shooting.
“Why? We don’t know. I don’t know if we’ll ever know,” Lott said. “Probably only the dead person and the Devil knows why he did what he did today.”
Shannonhouse was treated at a local hospital. Lott said, “his eyes will be okay.”