Sheriff: Man who planned to ambush deputies drew diagram of 'kill zone'
"What was his intent? To kill as many Richland County deputies as he could," Sheriff Leon Lott said
By Ted Clifford
COLUMBIA, S.C. — A Columbia man had accumulated more than 900 rounds of ammunition before luring Richland County Sheriff’s deputies into an ambush in the Carriage Oaks subdivision, authorities say.
Frederic Westfall, 25, had been stockpiling ammunition and military equipment before he launched the attack from his family’s home last Wednesday, Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott said at a press conference Tuesday. Law enforcement believe that Westfall was intending to kill multiple officers, but his motive remains unknown.
Westfall was found dead after opening fire on three deputies who responded to a 911 call near his home. Lott said at the time it was believed Westfall killed himself.
“What was his intent?” Lott questioned. “To kill as many Richland County deputies as he could.”
Westfall had no criminal history or any evidence of interactions with law enforcement, according to Lott. He didn’t leave behind a manifesto, and deputies found no evidence of radicalization in his online communications.
The only clue to his motivation offered by law enforcement were the words “Dead Pigs” followed by a smiley face scrawled at the bottom of a hand-drawn map of Westfall’s home. On the map, Westfall had identified four firing positions that he could shoot from.
“He had a plan in place,” said Lott. “These deputies and the way they responded messed up his plan.”
In the early morning of Aug. 3, Frederick Westfall placed two 911 calls saying he’d witnessed a domestic incident at 216 Carriage Oaks Drive.
[EARLIER COVERAGE: 'Ambush to kill cops': Deputies lured to neighborhood by unfounded 911 call]
“I saw this guy beating on a woman,” said Westfall on the 911 recording. “They saw me and they turned their lights out.”
Deputies Joseph Shannonhouse, William Beck and Master Deputy Janson Bell responded to the call, which they soon determined to be a false. As the deputies began to pull away in their cars, Westfall opened fire with an assault rifle equipped with a 70-round “drum” magazine, authorities said.
Westfall fired 16 shots from the front steps of family’s home while his mother and stepfather slept inside, according to Lott. Deputy Shannonhouse was injured by flying glass when one round struck the passenger window of his car. Bullets also hit parked cars and a neighbor’s house.
But Lott said he believed that on the morning of the attack, Westfall had been unable to get a clear line of sight on the deputies, forcing him to shoot from outside of his house.
Westall was found dead in front of his garage of a self-inflicted gun shot wound to the head. He was wearing a steel-plated camouflage tactical vest, equipped with 13 fully loaded magazines.
Inside the home that Westfall shared with his mother and stepfather, law enforcement found hundreds more rounds of ammunition and another tactical vest. He’d told his family that he’d been buying the equipment so that he could go fight in Ukraine, said Lott.
A search of Westfall’s online history didn’t provide any additional information about what drove Westfall to plan the attack.
“There was lots of communication (online) about getting equipment to Ukraine, trying to get to Ukraine,” said Lott. “What we found online didn’t have anything to do with trying to kill cops.”
Westfall had tried to join the military, Lott said, but did not qualify because he didn’t graduate high school and hadn’t received his GED. Law enforcement did not believe that he was receiving any kind of mental health treatment.
This is at least the third attack of its kind this year in South Carolina. A sheriff’s deputy in Spartanburg and a police officer in Cayce were were killed in separate attacks while responding to domestic violence calls.
“He made the type of call that he knew multiple deputies would respond to,” said Lott. “We were lucky an innocent person didn’t get hit while they were in bed or while they were up getting a cup of coffee.”