(Columbia) - Authorities say what began as a house fire led to a standoff that ended with a deputy shooting to death the suspect.
According to officers, the problems began at a home on Samson Circle in Columbia at 2:49 a.m. That's when firefighters were called to the scene to put out a fire there. The flames were extinguished, and crews left the home.
At just after 8 a.m., another call came in of a fire at the same home. The first person on the scene was Columbia police officer Rueben Hertado. Investigators say Hertado found the suspect, 38-year-old Richard Lewis Catoe, at the scene holding a 5 inch long hunting knife. Investigators say Catoe began making verbal threats to the officer. During this confrontation, the officer fired one shot at Cato, hitting him in the abdomen.
Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott says Catoe then ran from that home to another one down the block. Deputies and police negotiated with him for about two hours, and then decided to move on him because they felt he was an increased threat. Lott says flash bags were used to disorient him, and non-lethal bean bags were fired at him. An officer even used a shield to knock Catoe to the ground. Despite all this, Catoe was able to get away from officers and ran toward the back of the house.
Officers say Catoe ran at deputy Kellye Henderick with a knife. Henderick responded by shooting Catoe several times in the chest.
Catoe was taken to the hospital where he later died.
Lott says his deputy was justified in using deadly force. "It's a sad situation that our deputy was placed in that position," says Lott. "Mr. Catoe made the decision with the events today and put her in a position where she had no choice but to use her weapon and fire at him."
Columbia Police Chief Dean Crisp echoes that sentiment, saying, "If he had broken that perimeter(that officers had set up) he could have hurt people."
Crisp says Catoe appeared very agitated during the incident, and displayed unusual physical strength and didn't seem to feel pain. Those factors, plus his demeanor, lead Crisp and Lott to conclude that Cato may have been under the influence of drugs, or may have been in an altered mental state.
It's not clear yet if Catoe set the fires to the home, but Deputy Columbia Fire Chief Aubrey Jenkins says the fire's origins are suspicious.
Lott and Crisp say Catoe has a long criminal history, with arrests for assaulting a police officer, drugs, and sexual assault. On June 6, they say he was arrested for violation of a restraining order.
Stay tuned to wltx.com for updates as they become available.