North Charleston police Sgt. Eddie Bullard considers himself lucky to be alive after he was apparently shot with his own gun while struggling with a shadowy suspect outside a Rivers Avenue business.
Bullard, 34, told officers two rounds were fired during the struggle early Wednesday and a bullet slammed into his protective vest. He crumpled to the ground, but the round stopped short of penetrating his abdomen, police said.
The 15-year veteran went home from the hospital Thursday afternoon. He said the bullet’s impact was very painful but it doesn’t appear to have caused any lasting damage beyond some nasty bruising and possibly a torn muscle.
“There is a lot of bruising,” Bullard said. “It’s a hurtful thing. But I’m doing well.”
Police launched a massive manhunt after the shooting, but no one has been arrested in connection with the incident and no suspects identified. The gunman has been described only as a black man in black clothing.
Bullard said he couldn’t discuss particulars of the shooting because it remains under investigation by the State Law Enforcement Division.
But a police report released late Thursday said the incident played out this way:
Bullard put out a distress call around 4:30 a.m. Wednesday and announced over the police radio that he had been shot outside the Carpet Wholesalers store at 6929 Rivers Ave. Officers raced to the business and found Bullard lying on the ground along the side of the business, beside a passenger van.
Bullard told officers he had spotted a man standing beside the closed business and told him to turn around. The man ignored the request.
Suddenly, Bullard said, a second man emerged from the darkness and jumped him from behind. They began struggling over his weapon and Bullard fired off a shot as the first man he encountered took off running.
Bullard told officers he started to lose his grip on the pistol but managed to eject the magazine from the gun before he was shot. He said both men fled toward the rear of the building, near Midland Park Road.
The bullet ripped through the lower front of Bullard’s shirt before lodging in the vest.
Bullard told officers that two rounds had been fired from his service weapon. Investigators plan to conduct tests to determine whether the bullet that struck Bullard indeed came from his pistol or from another weapon.
Bullard was released from Medical University Hospital Thursday. He said he will probably be out of work for a couple of weeks, but he is eager to return to duty just as soon as he is able.
“I’ll be back soon,” he said. “I don’t want to be just waiting around the house.”
Bullard said he is grateful for the support he has received from his fellow officers and the law enforcement community. Numerous people have called to wish him well and he received visits from North Charleston Police Chief Jon Zumalt and Charleston Police Chief Greg Mullen.
Zumalt and other police officials have said little about the shooting, citing the ongoing SLED investigation.
A person who shoots a police officer faces no stiffer sentence than any other shooter, and that needs to change, 9th Circuit Solicitor Scarlett Wilson said Thursday.
She said she supported a bill District 115 Rep. Peter McCoy, R-James Island, filed last year that would mandate a minimum 15-year sentence for anybody who shoots a law-enforcement officer. The bill didn’t pass, but McCoy’s staff said he plans to try again if he is re-elected this year.
Bullard’s shooting marked the second time this year a North Charleston police officer has been wounded in the line of duty. On Jan. 14. Patrolman David Winslette was shot in the vest and knee while trying to make contact with a suspected thief outside the El Cheapo gas station at 3615 Dorchester Road.
Winslette survived, and Timothy Darrell Johnson Jr. was charged with attempted murder in that incident.
Dave Munday contributed to this article. Reach Glenn Smith at 937-5556 or Twitter.com/glennsmith5.