A retired S.C. Highway Patrol trooper shot and killed an intruder after a struggle in his Bluffton home early Wednesday, according to the Beaufort County Sheriff's Office.
Former trooper Lt. William "Chuck" Wise was attacked by a man attempting to break into his Palmetto Bluff Road home at 2:15 a.m. when Wise fired several shots, striking and killing him, investigators say.
The body of 39-year-old Paul Edward Rowell was found in the main entryway, the Sheriff's Office said.
Investigators also believe Rowell attacked the owner of a nearby home just 30 minutes before he assaulted Wise at his home.
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It is unclear why Rowell was prowling the neighborhood in the early-morning hours, and he was a stranger to both men he attacked, the Sheriff's Office said. No motive has been established, spokeswoman Sgt. Robin McIntosh said.
Rowell has no previous arrests in Beaufort County, according to the Beaufort County Detention Center.
Rowell lived in the area but had a home address in Alabama, according to Beaufort County Coroner Ed Allen. Rowell's body has been sent to Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston for an autopsy, Allen said.
According to the Sheriff's Office, Wise and his wife reported that they were awakened by the sudden barking of their dogs. Wise grabbed a flashlight and looked outside the front door when he saw a white male -- later identified as Rowell -- get out of a truck parked out front, a news release said.
Wise grabbed a handgun as Rowell approached the home. He went back to the door to tell Rowell to leave and said he was armed, but Rowell "continued to insist on coming inside," the release said.
Wise fired a warning shot. That's when Rowell attacked him in an attempt to take his gun, the release said.
The men struggled as Rowell forced his way into the home. That's when Wise shot and killed him. Wise was not injured in the attack. Rowell was not armed, McIntosh said.
Wise retired from Highway Patrol in May, S.C. Department of Public Safety communications director Sherri Iacobelli said. He became a trooper in 1986 and "spent his whole career in the Beaufort and Jasper area," at first on patrol and later as commander of the Beaufort/Jasper area, Iacobelli said.
Reached at his home, Wise said he was advised to direct media calls to Sheriff P.J. Tanner.
Tanner said Rowell was involved in several incidents before the attack at Wise's home and said details would be released when the investigative report is finished.
In one of those incidents, Rowell is believed to have threatened to kill a nearby resident before coming to Wise's home, according to the Sheriff's Office. The victim in that incident, Albert Murray Jr. of Joe Houston Lane, said he was driving home at about 1:30 a.m. from his job as a chef at Harbour Town when he noticed a black Ford F-150 following him. The truck -- which matched Wise's description of the truck that pulled into his driveway -- pulled in behind Murray as he parked in his driveway.
Murray said he asked the man who emerged from the truck if he could help him. After what he called a bizarre exchange, Murray said Rowell threatened to kill him and chased him around his home three times while the victim called out to his sleeping wife and adult son.
Murray got back into his vehicle and yelled that he would call 911. Rowell left at that point. Shaken, Murray drove to the corner of Palmetto Bluff Road and Stoneyhill Loop to wait for deputies.
"If I could have gotten into my house to get my gun, I would have shot him on the spot myself," Murray said.
Murray said investigators returned to his home at 5 a.m. for another interview.
He said an investigator told him "I don't think you'll have to worry about this guy anymore."
Follow reporter Allison Stice at twitter.com/LCBlotter.