Thursday, March 4, 2010
Hephzibah Officer Avoids Shooting During Stop
A corporal with the Hephzibah Police Department came close to being shot Monday during a traffic stop, but the officer was able to keep the vehicle's driver from grabbing his weapon.
After the dust had settled, 22-year-old Darian Prater, 22 of Augusta (top), and 20-year-old Assalaam Lendor of North Augusta (bottom) fled the traffic stop but were captured. Mr. Prater was captured Wednesday and charged with attempting to remove an officer's weapon, obstruction of a law enforcement officer and possession of a weapon, according to authorities. Mr. Lendor was arrested Monday night and charged with obstruction of an officer.
Cpl. Hector Torres was investigating two suspicious males outside Family Dollar on Windsor Spring Road in Hephzibah on Monday night. A witness told the officer that he spotted two men wearing masks and lurking near the store.
A sheriff's report explains what happened when Cpl. Torres stopped the suspicious 2004 Dodge Stratus on Highway 88:
The driver and passenger immediately became aggravated with the officer and wouldn't allow him to explain the reason for the stop. Both men kept reaching for the car's floorboard despite the officer telling them to keep their hands in plain view.
The corporal called for backup from the sheriff's office, and when they arrived, he told the passenger to exit the car. When the passenger got out, Cpl. Torres noticed a gun on the floorboard and announced his discovery to the deputies. The passenger reacted by running away into a wooded area.
While deputies ran after the passenger, Cpl. Torres stayed with the driver, identified as Mr. Prater. The driver tried to run as well, but Cpl. Torres wrestled with him. While fighting, the driver attempted to take the officer's service weapon several times. The driver was eventually able to get loose and ran into the woods and got away.
A search of the abandoned car turned up two loaded handguns, black clothing and electronic scales.
The sheriff's report also indicates that Mr. Lendor was later captured and admitted to officers that Mr. Prater "had directed him to shoot Cpl. Torres" during the traffic stop.
Fortunately, that did not happen.