A man who authorities say shot a woman four times was himself shot and killed Wednesday night by a Union County Sheriff’s deputy after he refused commands to drop his gun and instead pointed it at deputies.
In a press conference Thursday morning, Sheriff David Taylor said deputies were dispatched at 8:46 p.m. Wednesday to the Kelly One Stop convenience store at 1508 Jonesville-Lockhart Highway, Jonesville, in reference to a gunshot victim. Taylor said when they arrived, deputies determined the suspect was still inside the store with a gun and called the Special Emergency Response Team to the scene. As they waited in the parking lot, Taylor said deputies could see a large amount of blood on the floor inside the building and heard the victim screaming. He said this indicated the victim was seriously wounded and badly in need of medical attention. He said because of this, the deputies on the scene decided to enter the building to take the suspect into custody so the victim could get the medical attention she needed.
Taylor said it was then that the suspect, later identified as Rick Lee Eison, attempted to leave the store, still carrying the gun he’d used to shoot the victim and to shoot at other people in the store. He said deputies asked Eison to put the gun down, but instead he pointed it at deputies.
When he did, Taylor said Sgt. Jared Gilstrap of the Special Emergency Response Team shot Eison with a patrol rifle.
Eison, 52, 620 Eisontown Road, Jonesville, was taken to Spartanburg Regional Medical Center where he died at 11:25 p.m.
The victim, who Taylor said was shot four times including once in the right shoulder, once in the left foot, one in the left wrist with the fourth bullet grazing the right side of her neck, was also taken to Spartanburg Regional. Taylor said Thursday afternoon that the victim was conscious and in stable condition at the hospital.
No deputies were injured, but Taylor said in accordance with department policy regarding deputy-involved shootings, Gilstrap has been placed on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation. Taylor said the investigation is being handled by SLED in accordance with department policy.
Though he did not release the name of the victim, Taylor said she is employed as a clerk at Kelly One Stop. Taylor said she was not working at the time but had simply stopped in when Eison arrived and shot her. He said Eison and the victim were involved in what he described as a “boyfriend-girlfriend” relationship and that the shooting may have grown out of a domestic dispute. He said the investigation into Eison’s shooting of the victim and its possible roots in a domestic dispute is still under investigation by his office.
While no one else was injured, Taylor said witnesses and surveillance video from inside the store indicate Eison fired not only at the victim but also at other people who were in the store. Based on information gathered so far, Taylor said there were approximately three adults and two children in the store at time of the shooting. Taylor said the presence of the victim and the other people in the store alongwith Eison raised the possibility of a hostage situation. He said this was also a factor in the decision by deputies to try to enter the building and take Eison into custody.
In addition, Taylor said Eison is believed to have fired his gun — a .38-caliber pistol — until it was empty and then reloaded it and resumed firing.
Asked if Eison had a criminal record, Taylor said he’d been arrested for assault in Oct. 2010.
Wednesday’s incident was the second fatal shooting within a week in Union County. On Monday, deputies found Barry Keith Thompson and his wife Jackie Lynn Thompson suffering from gunshots wound to the head in their home at 125 Hoyt Drive, Union. Preliminary evidence has led authorities to conclude that Thompson shot his wife and then shot himself. He died a short time later at Wallace Thomson Hospital while she was transported to Spartanburg Regional where she is reportedly recovering.
During Thursday’s press conference, Taylor was asked about the fatal shooting of a deputy in Laurens County that occurred Wednesday night. Deputy Roger Rice of the Laurens County Sheriff’s Office was shot and killed shortly before midnight while searching for a murder suspect near Clinton. Taylor reflected of the tragedies in both Laurens and Union counties and the devastating impact such violence can have on the victims, law enforcement personnel and their families.
“Any time there’s a departmental shooting, it affects so many people’s lives, the victims and their families and the deputies and their families, it affects their lives maybe for a lifetime,” Taylor said. “We had the tragedy where a deputy was shot and killed in Laurens County and we could have been going through the same thing here. Our hearts go out to all the families that are going through the trauma of these types of situations.”