Suspect killed after high-speed chase

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Suspect killed after high-speed chase

By BEN CRITES<br>The Island Packet
Published Thursday, December 22, 2005 in The Island Packet  |  861 Words  |  /BeaufortGazette/local_news

BLUFFTON -- A Beaufort County Sheriff's Office patrolman shot and killed a 36-year-old Hardeeville man suspected of committing two violent crimes just before the shooting Tuesday night.'
Sheriff's Office Patrolman First Class Thomas J. Junkin shot William Roland Simmons once in the chest at around 8:15 p.m. during a struggle in a ditch on Jasper Station Road, a Sheriff's Office release states. Junkin was trying to arrest Simmons, a suspect in a carjacking in Hardeeville and an attempted armed robbery in greater Bluffton, following a high-speed chase.'
Jasper County Coroner Martin Sauls said the bullet severed Simmons' subclavian vein and perforated one of his lungs. He was pronounced dead at Coastal Carolina Medical Center at 9:05 p.m., Sauls said.'
"All indications to me are that everything looks like the officer did what he was trained to do," Beaufort County Sheriff P.J. Tanner said. "The use of deadly force was appropriate."'
During the struggle, Junkin was struck multiple times in the head with a blunt object believed to have been a .25 semi-automatic pistol used in the commission of the crimes, Tanner said.'
Junkin, 32, was flown via a Lifestar air ambulance to Memorial Health University Medical Center in Savannah, where he received treatment for lacerations on the front and back of his head and a minor concussion, Tanner said. He received 17 stitches and was released Wednesday morning.'
"It's unfortunate that the situation ended the way it did," the sheriff said, "but it is fortunate that the officer is OK. (Junkin) did everything he was trained to do."'
The State Law Enforcement Division was called to the scene Tuesday and will conduct an independent investigation of the shooting. '
Tanner said his office will conduct an administrative investigation of whether policies were followed regarding the use of force and during the high-speed chase.'
The shooting followed a pursuit that began in greater Bluffton and ended in Jasper County. In the end, nearly 100 officers and workers from seven law enforcement and emergency response agencies were at the three crime scenes, Tanner said.'
The series of events leading up to the shooting began around 7 p.m. That's when Simmons carjacked a 1995 Buick Regal at gunpoint in the parking lot of Sleep Inn Hardeeville, a Sheriff's Office release states.'
The driver of the Buick, a 37-year-old Macon, Ga., man whose name was not released, was held in the car until Simmons dropped him off in the area of Pine Arbor Road off John Smith Road in Hardeeville, according to a release. The man hitchhiked back to the hotel and called 911.'
From there, Simmons drove to Michael's Arts & Crafts Store on Malphrus Road in greater Bluffton, where he attempted to rob a 33-year-old woman in the parking lot at around 8 p.m., a release states.'
According to Tanner, Simmons approached the woman from behind and told her his car wouldn't start. Soon after, he pulled a handgun and demanded the woman's money. '
She said she didn't have any money, screamed and called 911 from the crafts store when Simmons drove off.'
The woman identified Simmons in a photo lineup Wednesday morning, a release states.'
Junkin received the vehicle description from a dispatcher and stationed his cruiser in the median of U.S. 278 across from Sheridan Park to watch for the vehicle, which passed by roughly three minutes after the attempted robbery, according to a release.'
Tanner said a Georgia handicapped license plate tipped off the deputy.'
Junkin attempted a traffic stop on the vehicle, but Simmons ignored the blue light and sped westbound on U.S. 278, Tanner said. '
The chase continued on S.C. 170 toward Beaufort and veered left onto Short Cut Road. It ended in a ditch in a wooded area off Jasper Station Road, where Simmons assaulted Junkin as the deputy attempted the physical arrest.'
The .25 semi-automatic pistol was recovered by SLED investigators, assisted by the Sheriff's Office, in a water-filled ditch at around 11 a.m. Wednesday, a release states.'
The crime scene wasn't closed until about 2:30 p.m. Wednesday, Tanner said.'
According to information provided by the Sheriff's Office, Simmons was convicted of 19 crimes in Georgia and South Carolina between September 1994 and May 2002. Six of those convictions were for disorderly conduct.'
A release states that Junkin, a volunteer with the Beaufort Fire Department, was awarded a Proactive Patrol Award on Saturday for being active in the prevention of crime. '
He has been with the Sheriff's Office since August 2003.'
Tanner said county deputies shot suspects in three incidents in the mid- to late 1990s, though none died from their wounds. He said the last time a deputy fatally shot a suspect was in the late 1960s or early 1970s.'
Junkin was at his home in Beaufort recovering Wednesday night, Tanner said. '
He will be on paid leave during the investigations, which Tanner said he hopes to see completed by Jan. 1.