A man who fired a shotgun into the air multiple times in Wagener on Monday and then left the scene will face no criminal charges, even though law enforcement officers spent several hours dealing with the situation.
A search by the Aiken County Bloodhound Tracking Team for the individual, described by at least one relative as suicidal, was called off at 6:15 p.m.
“He has not committed any criminal act that I can think of at this point,” said Capt. Troy Elwell of the Aiken County Sheriff's Office, shortly after the search was called off. “He lives in the county, and you can shoot a gun in the county. He didn't aim it at anybody, and he didn't threaten anybody with it.”
Elwell declined to identify the man, whom he described as being in his late 20s. The law enforcement officer called the incident at 2899 New Holland Road “a wellness check with unique circumstances, not a standoff.”
According to Elwell, a family member of the man called the Sheriff's Office around 2:15 p.m. “because the suspect was drunk and making threats of suicide. When we arrived at the scene,” he continued, “another family member was already present and there was a heated discussion occurring between the two (the family member and the suspect) outside. The suspect then took a shotgun that he already had, aimed it into the air and fired off multiple rounds.”
The family member “fled the scene” afterward and “the deputies that were there started forming a perimeter around the house” on the property because they thought the man had gone inside, Elwell said. “Then we waited on the appropriate manpower to get there before we started searching the residence and the other buildings.”
Officers with the Wagener Police Department, representatives of the S.C. State Law Enforcement Division, and the Aiken County Sheriff's Office SWAT team responded to the incident.
“We assumed (the suspect) was in the house until we searched it, and he was not,” Elwell said.
Law enforcement officers also searched four outbuildings and two campers on the property. The shotgun fired by the man was found outside of one of the outbuildings. Tear gas was deployed into that building before law enforcement officers checked to see if the man was inside, Elwell said.
The Bloodhound Tracking Team then went to work.
“It's unfortunate,” Elwell said. “We spent a lot of man hours out there just trying to make sure this individual was safe, and he doesn't want any help from us at this point.”
If the man had been found, he would have been taken to a hospital for a mental health evaluation, according to Elwell. He said the sheriff's office would monitor the situation and attempt to get in touch with the man's family members or friends “so we can try to get him to go to the hospital.”