A man who made fake 911 calls to ambush law enforcement was found dead Wednesday morning after opening fire on officers. Sheriff of Richland County Leon Lot.
One of three deputies who responded to the call for help at about 5:30 a.m. was injured in the shooting, Lott said at a news conference.
When officers found the body of 25-year-old Frederick Westfall, Lott said he was in full tactical gear and carrying an assault rifle.
Lott said it appears Westfall committed suicide after firing at officers in the Carriage Oaks Subdivision in northeast Columbia.
“I’m lucky I’m not here talking about a deputy sheriff who was murdered like we had in Spartanburg and in Cayce,” Lott said, referring to recent shootings in which law enforcement officers responded to calls for domestic violence and were killed by a gunman. “Same kind of situation in that it was an ambush.”
Joseph Shannonhouse is the sheriff’s deputy who was injured, according to the sheriff.
Shannonhouse was not hit by gunfire, but while he was driving, a bullet shot through the passenger window and became lodged in the dashboard of his patrol vehicle, Lott said. Glass from that impact hit Shannonhouse in the face and got into his eyes, according to the sheriff.
Shannonhouse, who worked for the sheriff for about a year after serving in the military and serving as a police officer at Fort Jackson, responded quickly while under fire and was able to drive away from the crime scene while asking for help. cried, Lott said.
The other officers who responded to the call, Lott said, had not gotten into their vehicles when they heard the gunfire, as more than 15 rounds were fired.
More officers arrived on the scene, and as they checked the area, it was in the house next to the house where they had originally replied that they had “dead” a person, Lott said.
That was Westfall, who investigators confirmed was the person who made two fake calls to 911 and told the dispatcher that a woman was being assaulted, according to the sheriff.
As the first three officers discovered before the shooting, the woman was not attacked, Lott said.
“The lady says there’s nothing wrong, she hasn’t called, she’s not being attacked, she has no idea why they would be called to her house,” Lott said at the news conference.
When the officers left, the shooting started.
Lott was clear that his deputies didn’t kill Westfall, as they never fired their guns. The officers never had a chance to fire because they never saw anyone to shoot, Lott said.
There was no word on Westfall’s motive for the shooting.
“Why? We don’t know. I don’t know if we’ll ever know,” Lott said. “Probably only the dead and the devil know why he did what he did today.”
Westfall had no records of past meetings with law enforcement, according to Lott. While there was no clear motive, Lott said it was clear what Westfall wanted to achieve.
“I don’t think you get much more premeditated than that. Being fully armored, making a call, a fake call to get deputies there,” Lott said. “He wasn’t there to give them a cup of coffee, he was there to shoot and kill them.
“We were just lucky that he was not successful.”
Other than Shannonhouse, no other injuries were reported.
The sheriff said Shannonhouse was being treated at a nearby hospital where the glass was removed and his eyes will be “OK”.
Despite Westfall’s death, Lott said the investigation into the shooting is very active. Investigators are processing scenes and need to process the patrol vehicle that was hit by gunfire.
And officers are trying to track down all the bullets that were fired, according to the sheriff.
“We were lucky, we were very lucky,” Lott said. “This was an ambush. Nothing but an ambush to kill cops.”