SUMMERVILLE -- The mother of a man shot to death by police officers said she can't believe her son would rob a store and kidnap and sexually assault a woman, but police said there's no doubt they got the man who committed the crimes.
Dorothy Heckstall said Tuesday that her 29-year-old son, Garrick, was walking along Boone Hill Road on Monday because he was on a break from taking a GED class at the Dorchester County Adult Education Center at 1325 Boone Hill Road.
Her son, whom she described as quiet, had never been in trouble before, she said. "I just couldn't see him doing something like this."
Police said they approached the man on the sidewalk in front of Summerville High School about 11:30 a.m. Monday because he had robbed the nearby Kangaroo Express at 1365 Boone Hill Road about 11 a.m. and forced a woman, a delivery driver, to take him to an undisclosed location where he sexually assaulted her.
Police said officers fired on him when he drew a handgun, which was recovered at the scene.
The man officers shot is the same man who robbed the store and kidnapped the woman, Summerville police Capt. Jon Rogers said Tuesday.
The investigation is in the hands of the State Law Enforcement Division because it was an officer-involved shooting.
According to Dorothy Heckstall and a Summerville High School student who saw the shooting, Garrick Heckstall was walking toward the Adult Education Center, in the direction of the convenience store he's accused of robbing, when officers confronted him.
Kieran Kramer said her son, the high school student, was waiting to turn left into the school driveway when he saw a man walking along the sidewalk with a bag of potato chips in a pocket of his hooded sweatshirt. He saw that a Summerville police car was parked on the sidewalk behind the man.
Her son watched two officers gesturing for the man to talk to them. "Come here, get over here," they said.
The man looked back, ignored the officers and kept walking, Kramer said. When her son turned into the driveway, he heard five or six rapid-fire shots. The man, now facing the officers, was screaming and writhing in pain as the officers "swarmed over him," Kramer said.
Kramer thanked police for waiting until her son was out of harm's way. She also praised the high school for erecting a fence in front of the school, even though she has heard some people complain about the cost. Had it not been there, she said, the suspect might have been able to flee toward the school.
Heckstall was composed Tuesday as she spoke about her son's death. She said she gets her strength from working 20 years as a registered nurse in Queens, N.Y. She moved her family to the Ridgeville area about four years ago.
Now retired, she had time to drive her son back and forth to class because he didn't have a driver's license.
Heckstall said she was running late to pick him up Monday and was surprised that he hadn't already called her.
"Usually when I'm running late he'll call me," she said.
Heckstall arrived at the Adult Education Center after noon and talked to classmates who told her Garrick had been in class that morning. He had told his teacher that day that he planned to attend summer school, she said.
Julie Kornahrens, director of Dorchester County Adult Education, confirmed Tuesday that Heckstall was enrolled in the GED program. She declined to give any more details because of the active investigation.
Heckstall asked the students why police were gathered in front of the high school, and they told her someone wearing a hooded sweatshirt and a cap had robbed the Kangaroo station. She said her son was wearing a hoodie and a cap because of the rain that day.
She then went to the shooting scene and told police she couldn't find her son. Officers on the scene confirmed that it was Garrick through his ID, she said. An officer told her he was going to be OK, she said.
She went to see him at Medical University Hospital. While she was meeting with a chaplain a surgeon told her that her son died on the operating table.
Doctors told her he was shot six times in the legs and chest.
He was pronounced dead at the hospital at 3:40 p.m., Dorchester County Coroner Chris Nisbet said.
Heckstall said she suspected her son might be mentally challenged, but whenever she offered to have him tested, he said he didn't need to be. He was so young-looking, she treated him like a teenager, she said.
He does not have a criminal history in South Carolina, according to a SLED criminal history check.
"He had no problems there (New York) and no problems here," Heckstall said.
She said her son didn't need to rob a store. She gave him lunch money every day before class, and he also had a credit card.
She didn't believe he owned a gun.
"He was so skinny that if he had a gun it would look like his pants were sagging," she said.
She said she's determined to find out what happened.
"I've got to know the truth," she said. "I don't have time to be sitting around with my head in my hands. I need to figure out what happened. I need to see for myself."
Late Tuesday, Heckstall said she got a chance to view the store security video. The man she saw was indeed her son, but it didn't appear that he committed a robbery.