Florence, SC – Police have released bodycam video of an officer-involved shooting that showed the suspect opening fire on the officer in a hotel parking lot (video below).
The incident occurred just before 12:30 p.m. on July 14 when police responded to a call about an armed man at the Hilton Garden Inn on Hospitality Boulevard, according to WPDE.
Florence Police Officer Thomas Herman was the first to arrive on the scene and dashcam video showed he spotted 68-year-old Jethro Benjamin right away, brandishing a handgun.
Officer Herman ordered Benjamin to the ground and told him to drop his weapon, but the suspect failed to comply, WMBF reported.
Instead, he hid behind a car and opened fire on the officer.
Officer Herman returned fire, and engaged in a gunfight, Florence Police Lieutenant Mike Brandt told WPDE.
The video showed the officer took cover behind his police vehicle and shot at Benjamin as the suspect left the cover of the vehicle behind which he had been hiding, the video showed.
He fell to the ground and officers proceeded to take him into custody.
Benjamin was transported to a Florence-area hospital where he later died, WPDE reported.
No officers were injured in the altercation.
“It’s terrible. It’s a terribly tragic situation. We’re devastated by the turn of events,” Florence Mayor Stephen Wukela said after the shooting occurred, according to WBTW.
“But unfortunately, it doesn’t appear there was an alternative. It’s terribly unfortunate what had to occur but when you’ve got an individual with a firearm in a public place, an officer put himself in between that danger and the public,” the mayor said.
When city council members questioned the fact that it was the second officer-involved shooting for the department in 2018, Wukela jumped to the defense of law enforcement in his city.
"I know that's troubling to me and other members of council and staff and to police and to the officer himself. We're devastated by the turn of events but unfortunately, it doesn't appear there was an alternative,” he said. “You've got an individual here at a public place discharging a firearm at police officers. That officer didn't have much choice."
The South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED) took over the investigation into the shooting at the request of the Florence police chief.
“Chief [Allen] Heidler requested that the State Law Enforcement Division investigate this incident. The Florence Police Department also conducted an internal inquiry into this incident. As a result of both investigations, it has been determined that Officer Thomas Herman acted in accordance with state law, as well as departmental policy," Lt. Brandt wrote, according to SC Now.
Watch the suspect open fire on the officer in the video below: