FLORENCE COUNTY, S.C. (WBTW) — Florence County Sheriff T.J. Joye said the county’s newly purchased armored vehicle saved lives during Wednesday’s standoff near Coward.
Joye confirmed he was shot at during the incident on Hicks Road in the Coward area and gunfire hit the window of the BearCat vehicle where he was sitting. He said the BearCat saved a bunch of lives that night.
“The actual round, the first round that was fired, hit where I was seated as you can see on the side of the vehicle that’s where the bullet went,” Joye said. “It’s a great comfort to know you can be mobile and move into a situation — hostage situation — like that with this vehicle.”
Deputies said not only did the BearCat protect them, it also shielded a church that was having a Wednesday night service across the street.
“It’s a great tool for us to have and it protects the men and women of the sheriff’s office as well as the citizens of Florence County and I just thank the County Council for supporting us on this effort because we truly needed it,” Joye said.
Officials said when deputies arrived, the suspect fired shots at deputies and eventually set the house on fire. During the incident, the suspect left the house and fired at deputies again.
Deputies returned fire and the suspect was wounded, according to officials. No Florence County deputies were injured.
The Lenco BearCat is a “civilian armored vehicle” used across the country by many police agencies, according to Major Michael Nunn with the Florence County Sheriff’s Office. The BearCat is not a military vehicle.
The purchase of two $233,000 vehicles was approved by Florence County voters in November on the penny sales tax referendum, deputies said. The purchase was made using the 2021 Capitol Sales Tax, according to officials.
The county also purchased a second one, which could take up to a year to be built and delivered.