COLUMBIA, S.C. — A deputy coroner on personal leave drove up to a woman he knew and began shooting at her and a litter control officer she was talking to before he killed himself, a South Carolina sheriff said.
The litter officer was wounded but is expected to recover. The woman was not hurt, and fled to a home where she was able to lock herself inside, Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott said.
The shooting Tuesday in Hopkins, a suburb about 15 miles southeast of Columbia, stunned law enforcement in the area. Leonard Bradley, 62, had been an officer all of his life, starting with Columbia police in 1975 and working for the Richland County coroner’s office since 2006, authorities said.
“Our careers kind of followed each other. I never had an idea something like this would happen,” Lott said at a news conference.
Lott said it would be impossible to know exactly why Bradley started shooting because he killed himself before anyone could ask. Authorities have not said why Bradley was on personal leave.
Litter control officer Levi Brown was talking to the woman around 12:30 p.m. Tuesday when Bradley drove up and started shooting, Lott said.
Brown was hit in the arm and finger. His bulletproof vest stopped one shot to his chest, Lott said. Brown couldn’t fire back because one of the shots hit his gun and broke it during the ambush.
Bradley tried to follow the woman into the home and fired a number of random shots before shooting himself in the head, Lott said.
The sheriff said Bradley had a relationship with the woman, who was not identified. Lott did not give details.
Richland County Coroner Gary Watts turned the death investigation over to Lexington County since Bradley was his employee.
Bradley had been on personal leave for about a week, but gave no indication he might be experiencing severe problems in his life, Watts said.
“If you ever get to the point that it doesn’t bother you doing these things, you’re in the wrong line of work,” Watts said. “And this is a tough one.”