In the line of fire

Tiffany Buras hugs her mother, Lisa Jones, next to the car she was a passenger in as it was hit by gunfire from her husband moments after he shot and killed an Orangeburg County deputy. Her husband, Derrick, was killed after he was run over by the car as

ORANGEBURG — Tiffany Buras packed the last of her belongings into her sister's car early Sunday morning and waited by the passenger-side door to see what her husband was going to do next.

Orangeburg County Deputy William Howell Jr. also was waiting for Derrick "Dukes" Buras to come out of the house. The deputy had escorted Tiffany and her sister to the Holly Hill mobile home where the Burases lived so Tiffany could take her belongings without being confronted again by her enraged husband.

Howell stood on the front porch with his back slightly turned from the home when the first shotgun blast struck him in the head, Tiffany said Wednesday.

"He didn't have a chance to do anything," the 18-year-old said of Howell. "As soon as he turned around, he just got shot."

She watched the deputy fall to the ground. Derrick Buras, 21, leapt over the deputy's fallen body and aimed the shotgun at her.

Tiffany jumped into the passenger seat and told her 16-year-old sister to drive. The 16-year-old, whose name is being withheld at the request of the family because she is a juvenile, floored the gas pedal. The tires spun but the car didn't move.

Pellets from Buras' pump-action gun rang off the hood, Tiffany said. Shrapnel pierced the Honda's radiator, sending steam into the air. Both girls ducked beneath the dash. Tiffany said she shifted the gear from reverse to drive but the tires continued to spin, kicking dirt and rocks into the air.

Another shotgun blast shattered the window on the passenger's side.

Two men, one of whom shared the mobile home with the Burases, jumped on Derrick Buras, trying to wrestle the gun from him.

The Honda's tires continued to spin until the young driver remembered to release the parking brake. The tires took hold, sending the car off in a wave of motion.

The car plowed blindly through the pile of men, looped around the yard and a neighbor's yard until it stopped abruptly.

"I told her, come on, come on, let's get going," Tiffany said. "She said, 'I'm trying. I'm trying. I'm on something.' "

Tiffany said she looked up and saw one of the men appear from beneath the car. The driver hit the gas again and the car sped off down the dirt road, with both occupants terrified that Derrick Buras was following them with the shotgun.

"We thought he was still loose," she said. "We were scared to death."

The young driver said it felt as though the car still was dragging something. She kept driving until she felt the added weight release from the car.

They sped down the dirt road until the young driver, unfamiliar with the road, hit the brakes hard at a stop sign. The car skidded through the sign and into a small tree before coming to rest in a ditch.

Tiffany said they flagged down a passing motorist who took them to their mom's friend. One girl called 911 while the other called their mom and told them Derrick "shot a cop."

Tiffany hoped the deputy survived.

"In my head, I wanted to believe he shot him in the chest and the deputy was wearing a bulletproof vest," she said.

The shot was fatal. Howell, 46, died at the scene.

Derrick Buras died that morning too after being hit by and dragged beneath the Honda. Authorities suspect he might have stood up and walked a bit after he was freed from the car and then fell in a ditch.

Tiffany said she didn't find out what happened to her husband until hours later. She broke down in tears when the coroner told her the news.

The Burases had been together for two years and got married six months ago. She has his name tattooed on her arm and hers on his. She said he became controlling and possessive as soon as they exchanged vows.

Tiffany said she tried to leave her husband Friday night but that he became angry and wouldn't let her go. She fled when he was next door, but he immediately called her mom's house and reportedly threatened to burn down his mother-in-law's home if he didn't speak to his wife right away, Tiffany said.

That's when they called the Orangeburg County Sheriff's Office.

Derrick Buras had three outstanding warrants at the time of his death, authorities said. He was facing three charges of assault and battery with intent to kill for a June 2007 incident and multiple arrests for criminal domestic violence against his wife.

It wasn't clear Wednesday whether Howell knew of the warrants.

Tiffany said she plans to attend the deputy's funeral but is not sure what she will do after that. She doesn't feel welcome at her husband's funeral and isn't sure she could make it through without falling to pieces.

She viewed his body one last time Monday to say goodbye. She couldn't stay long. "It was too real," she said.

The incident has been extremely hard on her younger sister. The girl, an honor roll student, insisted on attending school Monday. Her mom and sister said the girl was met with taunts and chants. Some students called her a murderer and even blamed her for the deputy's death.

Suddenly, the girl who hates missing school because she's determined to be the first of her siblings to graduate from high school doesn't want to go back.

First Circuit Solicitor David Pascoe said he does not anticipate anyone being charged in Buras' death.

Pascoe and the State Law Enforcement Division have declined to release details about the shooting since the investigation is ongoing.

Reach Andy Paras at 745-5891 or aparas@postandcourier.com.