Snakes, shooting and screaming were all elements of an eventful afternoon at a Cope residence.
The Orangeburg County Sheriff’s Office SWAT team and deputies were called out Sunday after dispatchers received a call reporting shots fired and people screaming. The caller said there was a big commotion going on at a Cannon Bridge Road house.
The only thing the caller could tell from his vantage point through thick trees was people at the house were screaming and shots were being fired.
Just after 5 p.m., deputies raced to the 4000 block of Cannon Bridge Road to prevent any more carnage. While deputies were en route, the caller’s phone suddenly went dead.
A second witness called county dispatch saying that from what he could see, hostages had been taken, some of them elderly and some of them young. He didn’t know how many. No one was being allowed to leave.
Worse, he said if law enforcement showed everyone would be gunned down right there on the spot, according to a Sheriff’s Office incident report.
The initial caller managed to call back saying that he could now see a man in the yard of the home brandishing a .22-caliber rifle. Near the man with the rifle was a child, he said, and some old people.
Meantime, emergency crews shut down their sirens and lights as they sped the last two miles to the home. They met with the caller about 100 yards from the residence. After he gave an update on the situation, he was taken to a safe location to the rear.
A woman walking down the road was taken into protective custody.
Analyzing the situation -- a single wood-lined lane leading to a house flanked by heavy woods -- the SWAT team was called while officers on scene concealed themselves in strategic locations around the house.
Officers then watched as a male wearing shorts and flip-flops ambled down the dirt lane from the house and toward the waiting officers. The thick foliage blocked any chance the officers had of determining if the shirtless man was armed.
However, as he drew near, he was ordered at gunpoint to the ground where he was taken into custody without a fight.
A security sweep of the property turned up a wooden rifle stock with no barrel. No one seemed to be harmed but the man subdued on the road appeared to be shaken after meeting so many officers.
It was determined that the homeowner had shot a snake he discovered earlier in the back yard. A child surprised by the shot screamed.
The SWAT team was ordered to stand down. It returned before arriving to aid in what was little more than an effort to repel a reptile.
The first caller told deputies he really couldn’t see that well through the trees. He just heard shots, someone screaming and he had assumed the worst.
Continuing the investigation, the officers learned the homeowner in question had actually been on the phone with that second man who later called law enforcement.
The two had a dispute on the phone during their conversation, according to the report. That dispute allegedly led to threats by the homeowner against that second caller, who, in turn, relayed them on to law enforcement as if the homeowner was threatening police, the report said.
Officers now believe the homeowner did not make threats against them. They did take the gun from the residence for safekeeping, noting the homeowner seemed intoxicated.
That second caller gave investigators a particular name, which detectives have since learned is not his real name. They still want to talk with the man they now know resides in Calhoun County.
No one was injured during the melee. Except the snake.
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