Search is on for cop shooter Assailant remains at large; N. Chas. officer was second shot this year

Sheriff’s deputies and North Charleston police gather around Chief Jon Zumalt (third from left) outside 6929 Rivers Ave., where an officer was shot early Wednesday morning.

Of the three North Charleston police officers who have been shot during the past 27 years, two were wounded this year.

The latest incident came early Wednesday under similar circumstances as the department’s first officer-involved shooting of 2012.

Sgt. Eddie Bullard was shot about 5 a.m. while attempting to speak with someone across from Trident Technical College on Rivers Avenue; he was saved by a protective vest, according to a police statement.

The 15-year veteran of the North Charleston Police Department was struck by a single bullet in the lower portion of his body armor. Bullard was said to be alert and speaking at a hospital, where he was evaluated for the minor wound. He was expected to be released today.

Requests for comment from Police Chief Jon Zumalt and spokesman Spencer Pryor went unanswered as officers, deputies, troopers and state agents canvassed residential and commercial areas, stopping motorists in hopes of finding a suspect.

Some officers were armed with military-style firearms. A helicopter flew overhead.

Eight police agencies joined the effort.

Investigators used crime-scene tape to cordon off a grassy area between 6929 Rivers Ave., a Carpet Wholesalers store, and a neighboring house. The area was not visible from the road.

Little is known about the incident, except for the information released by Pryor in the hour after the shooting.

Bullard said in radio transmissions that he was making contact with a person near the carpet business, according to Pryor.

“Moments later, the officer advised dispatchers that he had been shot,” Pryor said in a statement.

The shooting set off a massive hunt for the gunman, described only as a black man wearing black clothes. Pryor said Wednesday afternoon that investigators had not developed any suspects.

Agents from the State Law Enforcement Division are investigating the shooting. Crime-scene experts combed grassy and wooded areas behind the carpet store, whose metal siding is painted red, white and blue.

At the home next door, which once housed an Africa-themed gift shop, a woman rocked on a chair on the front porch and ate lunch.

Though the shooting happened “right out back,” the woman, who declined to be identified, said she heard nothing.

On the dirt-surfaced portion of Kimbell Road, which snakes behind the scene, two SLED investigators walked through bushes and snapped photos.

Ricky Waring, who has lived on Kimbell for all 49 years of his life, was waking up for a day of fishing about the time of the gunfire. But the only commotion he heard was overhead, from the helicopter looking for the assailant.

Although Waring said authorities have labeled his community as “drug-infested,” he finds it peaceful.

“When you have strange people here, that’s when the problems occur,” Waring said. “This police officer didn’t deserve that. He was just doing his job.”

In his 15 years with the department, Bullard has done extensive work investigating youth gangs responsible for violent crime waves. The Tri County Victims Council cited his work in 2009 for making himself available to crime victim “advocates and therapists both on and off duty. ... He can be counted to go above and beyond his duties to ensure child safety.”

Before this year, the last time a North Charleston police officer suffered a bullet wound was in 1985, when Tony Way was killed.

The first shooting of 2012 occurred in the early morning hours of Jan. 14. Patrolman David Winslette was trying to make contact with a man who fit a theft suspect’s description outside the El Cheapo gas station at 3615 Dorchester Road.

The man turned and fired, hitting Winslette’s vest and his knee.

Winslette, who had drawn his Taser but didn’t fire, managed to radio dispatchers about the incident and describe his assailant.

Several arrests were made later in the day. Timothy Darrell Johnson Jr. of Martha Drive faces a charge of attempted murder.

Winslette complained of a sore chest, where the bullet hit his vest, but his most serious injury was a shattered patella. After treatment, he returned to road patrol June 20.

News of the latest shooting was discouraging for those walking through the community on Independence Day.

Warner Cooke thought the increased police presence was because of the holiday, as officers also were out in search of drunken drivers.

“Most of the people around here are usually on their way to work or school,” said Cooke, who was walking to his gym Wednesday morning. “I wouldn’t expect something like this. It makes me a little more cautious and a lot more uncomfortable.”

Reach Andrew Knapp at 937-5414 or twitter.com/offlede.