Suspect Wore Explosives During AK-47 Police Attack
Blakely Hilton Jernigan credit: Clemson Police Department
The State via YellowBrix
April 29, 2011
*Editor Note: PoliceLink apologizes for the earlier confusion regarding Officer Alexander Broder’s condition. The article clearly states Officer Broder survived a shot to the chest thanks to his vest. Our thoughts go out to all those involved and are glad no officers were killed during this confrontation.
COLUMBIA, SC – Police found homemade explosives on the body of a 22-year-old Columbia man who died Wednesday after charging police with an AK-47 in Shandon.
Blakely Hilton Jernigan had built the homemade explosives out of a powder, but they were no more sophisticated than high-powered firecrackers, Columbia Police Chief Randy Scott said. Investigators also found more weapons, cocaine and marijuana in Jernigan’s apartment after the hour-long standoff ended in a hail of gunfire, Scott said.
More details emerged Thursday about the standoff that resulted in police SWAT members shooting and killing Jernigan outside a rental house in the Shandon neighborhood. Police continued their investigation as they tried to piece together events that led Jernigan, a former Eagle Scout, A.C. Flora High soccer player and Clemson University student, to spiral out of control.
Jernigan faced serious criminal charges in Pickens County for drug dealing and illegally carrying a gun while at Clemson. And he was under investigation from another law enforcement agency for his drug dealing, said Walt Wilkins, the 13th Circuit solicitor. Wilkins said Thursday his office had been delaying prosecution on those 2009 weapons and drug charges so the other investigation could play out.
The bizarre chain of events that led to the shootout began at 3:40 a.m. when a man delivering The State newspaper noticed he was being followed by someone driving a black Ford Explorer. The newspaper carrier called police, who eventually stopped Jernigan at Wilmot Avenue and King Street, near Hand Middle School.
As Patrolman Alexander Broder approached Jernigan’s car, the young man fired a handgun at close range, striking Broder in the chest. Broder survived the shot because he was wearing a department-issued bullet-proof vest.
Police tracked Jernigan to his apartment in a four-unit, brick house at 2730 Blossom St., where they had an hour-long standoff as police negotiators and Jernigan’s father tried to coax him into surrendering. Police thought Jernigan had agreed to give up and expected him to exit the house from a back door, Scott said.
Instead, Jernigan stormed out of a side door – from a different apartment – with an AK-47 assault rifle. He surprised two SWAT members who were guarding that side of the house. The officers fired, striking Jernigan multiple times in his legs, abdomen and chest, said Richland County Coroner Gary Watts. Jernigan died at the scene, Watts said.
Officer Alexander Broder
Investigators found three or four homemade explosives in Jernigan’s pants pockets, Watts said. His body lay in the backyard for hours as bomb squad teams were called to disable the explosives on him and inside his apartment.
When officers entered the apartment they found Jernigan’s girlfriend passed out in the bathtub, Scott said. She had been using drugs and was taken to a Columbia hospital, he said. The woman, who is in her 20s, has not been named as police continue their investigation.
Inside the apartment, police found an amount of cocaine and marijuana large enough that they could have charged Jernigan with distribution of the drugs had he not died, police said.
Investigators also found a second AK-47, machetes and other knives with long blades, and an explosive powder that had been used to construct the homemade explosive devices, Scott said.
Jernigan also had turned on the apartment’s stove, and natural gas was filling the apartment, Scott said. That could have been a deadly situation if police had been forced to enter the apartment, the chief said. SWAT units often use stun grenades to incapacitate suspects, and one of those devices could have caused an explosion when mixed with the natural gas, Scott said.
Police still have not said exactly how Jernigan was able to get out of his apartment and break into another unit in the house. At some point during the negotiations, Jernigan had crawled around the attic, but Scott said he was not sure if Jernigan had entered the other apartment through the attic.