EFFINGHAM − The man accused of ambushing officers at his Florence County home — fatally shooting two and wounding five others — refused to participate Wednesday in the court hearing he had requested, officials said.
Frederick Hopkins Jr., 74, a disbarred lawyer, represented himself when he appeared for a preliminary hearing on two counts of murder and five counts of attempted murder in the Oct. 3 shooting west of Florence.
Such hearings are a chance for a magistrate to determine whether authorities had probable cause to make an arrest.
Loved ones of the shooting victims and a survivor packed the courtroom.
Before any testimony was given, Hopkins objected to the proceeding and asked to be excused, 12th Circuit Solicitor Ed Clements said later.
Magistrate Mia Weaver decided his refusal to participate amounted to a waiver of the proceeding. His case will proceed toward trial.
Hopkins alleged the hearing "violates his constitutional rights" because it hadn't happened within 10 days of his request, TV station WPDE in Florence reported. While South Carolina court rules require a hearing to be scheduled within 10 days of a request, the proceeding must actually be held within 30 days. Fewer than 30 days have gone by since Hopkins' arrest.
The Post and Courier and at least two other newspaper reporters were denied access to the courtroom, though representatives of broadcast news media were allowed in. Constitutional provisions guarantee public access to court hearings.
Hopkins, a Vietnam veteran, is accused of opening fire on officers as they arrived at his upscale suburban home to execute a search warrant and question his son about the alleged sexual assault of a minor. Authorities said Hopkins was waiting for officers with a pistol and two military-style rifles. Investigators later discovered he had nearly 130 firearms in his home.
The standoff spanned roughly two hours.
Sgt. Terrence Carraway, 52, of the Florence Police Department died that day. Florence County sheriff's investigator Farrah Turner, 36, died of her wounds Oct. 22 after multiple surgeries. Her relatives attended Wednesday's hearing.
Deputy Arie Davis, who has used a wheelchair after being wounded in the ambush, also attended. Losing Turner, a friend and colleague, was "quite emotional," Davis' godmother said after the hearing. Davis is determined to be involved in the court process while she recovers from her own injuries.
"Today, she talked about (how) she knows that Farrah would want her to go forward and she would want her to be well," said the godmother, Cheryl Graham, who is a magistrate judge in Marion County.
Graham said Davis and others are focusing on the positives that have emerged from the tragedy, such as the fact that two esteemed officers are now known and respected across the country.
"What was supposed to end their lives actually expanded their lives," she said.
Hopkins' son, 28-year-old Seth Hopkins, faces charges of first-degree criminal sexual conduct with a minor under 11 years old and second-degree criminal sexual conduct with a minor between 11 and 14 years old. A preliminary hearing in his case is scheduled Thursday.
Before officers were gunned down outside the family's home, court records showed that investigators had planned to search Seth Hopkins' room for a girl's clothing, alleging that he had kept “mementos” of sex assaults.