The 26-year-old man killed by police after allegedly ambushing and wounding two officers Thursday night during a domestic violence incident near Hardeeville had earlier in the evening fired a gun near his mother’s head and had a history of violent charges.
Jose A. Trejo, 26, identified Friday morning by Jasper County Coroner Martin Sauls III, had previously been charged with criminal domestic violence, unlawful weapon possession, driving under the influence, drug trafficking, failure to appear in court and filing a false police report, Jasper County Sheriff Chris Malphrus said during a Friday news conference in Hardeeville.
The charging agencies in those incidents included the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office, the Jasper County Sheriff’s Office and the Columbia Police Department, Malphrus said. According to Beaufort County court records, Trejo pleaded guilty to a unlawful carry of a pistol charge in June 2009. Information on the disposition of the other charges outside Beaufort County was not available Friday.
Trejo died at the scene of the 432 Sanders Road disturbance when three Hardeeville police officers and a Sheriff’s Office deputy were called to the residence around 6 p.m. after a report of a “domestic situation,” Malphrus said.
Trejo, a resident of the home, allegedly fired a gun near his mother’s head before police arrived. Malphrus said she was treated for powder burns to the side of her face and eye at an area hospital Thursday night and released.
As two officers entered the home, Trejo allegedly exited a bedroom and began firing.
“It was an ambush-style attack,” Malphrus said.
The officers returned fire, killing Trejo. It was unclear Friday which officer fired the fatal shot since the investigation is in its early stages.
“We are not clear why this happened or what caused (Trejo) to act in this manner,” Malphrus said.
Deputy Justin Smith was struck by a bullet in the left hand and collar bone, Malphrus said.
He was flown to Memorial University Medical Center in Savannah, where Malphrus said he was in stable condition and awaiting surgery around 3 p.m. for the wound to his hand.
Sgt. Kelvin Grant of the Hardeeville Police Department was struck in the arm by a bullet and on his left side by a bullet fragment, Hardeeville Police Chief Sam Woodward said.
He was also flown to the Savannah hospital and awaited a surgery for his arm later Friday.
“He’s in good spirits and recovering well,” Woodward said.
Both officers have their families with them and are fathers, Woodward and Malphrus said.
Smith has been with the Sheriff’s Office about two years.
Grant has been with the police department since 2010.
The S.C. Law Enforcement Division has taken over the investigation, as is protocol in all officer-involved shootings. SLED investigators are currently working to interview witnesses, Malphrus said.
Smith was wearing a body camera at the time of the shootings, Malphrus said. Footage has not been released to the public by SLED.
Thursday’s shooting was the second officer-involved shooting in Jasper County this year.
The first happened on Jan. 16 when a Sheriff’s Office deputy fired rounds after a suspect allegedly pointed a gun at him during a suspicious vehicle call. The deputy responded to Purrysburg Road near Hardeeville after a report of four men armed with AK-47 assault rifles were seen riding in a Hummer.
The Hummer crashed as the driver allegedly attempted to hit the deputy’s vehicle and one of the men inside allegedly got out and pointed a gun at the deputy.
One person was taken into custody at the scene and another was taken into custody after a search of the area. The deputy was not injured and the SLED investigation into that shooting continues, Malphrus said.
An outpouring of support
Several government agencies and local restaurants reached out to support the Jasper County Sheriff’s Office and the Hardeeville Police Department after two officers were shot on Thursday night on Sanders Road.
“Last night was a huge outpouring from the community,” Jasper County Sheriff Chris Malphrus said.
The Bluffton Police Department brought first responders pizza at the scene, and other donations came from Burger King, Wendy’s, Little Caesar’s and Easy Shop.
Members of the U.S. Marshals, the S.C. Highway Patrol, the 14th Circuit Solicitors Office and the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office also assisted at the scene, Malphrus said.