Public safety briefs for May 25th-31st

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Photo above: Annually, each of the local law enforcement jurisdictions submit nominations to the Rotary Club of Beaufort for an individual from their department to be recognized as the Rotary Club of Beaufort as their Law Enforcement Officer of the Year. This year’s winner is Patrolman III Michael Phelan. From left are Deputy Law Enforcement Officer Phil Amsterdam, Department of Natural Resources; Patrolman III Michael Phelan, Beaufort Police Department; Investigator Fred Pascoe, Port Royal Police Department; and L/Cpl. David Stephens, South Carolina Highway Patrol.

Murder-for-hire gunman gets life  

Rohaime “Killa” Hopkins
Rohaime “Killa” Hopkins

A former convict and triggerman in a Jasper County murder-for-hire scheme was convicted recently of shooting and killing Terrance Johnson in 2014.  

A jury took less than 45 minutes to find 37-year-old Rohaime “Killa” Hopkins guilty of murder following a three-day trial at the Jasper County Courthouse in Ridgeland. 

Hopkins was sentenced to life in prison.  

At about 9 p.m. on Nov. 13, 2014, Johnson was shot five times while in a vehicle on Knowles Island Road, according to Career Criminal Team prosecutor and Assistant Solicitor Mary Jones.  

Jones told the jury that Hopkins was hired by a well-known area drug dealer to shoot and kill Johnson because Johnson had “snitched” and owed the man money.  

“The defendant coerced the victim to a rural area of the county, and when he got the victim alone, the defendant shot him five times while sitting in a car,” Jones said. 

Hopkins has been in and out of prison since 1996 on charges that include assault and battery with intent to kill and federal weapons violations.  

“Rohaime Hopkins is an extremely dangerous man who deserves to spend the rest of his life behind bars,” Jones said. “There is no doubt that Jasper County is a safer place with this man off the streets.” 

Circuit Court Judge Perry Buckner handed down the sentence.  

Yard debris fire ignites neighbor’s shed

Burton firefighters extinguished a brush fire on May 19 caused by smoldering ashes from yard debris fire which spread to a neighbor’s yard and ignited a shed. 

Firefighters reported smoke in the sky as they approached a shed fire on Belleview Circle East and arrived to find a brush fire that had spread through a fence along a property line and was igniting a neighbor’s shed. 

Firefighters were able to extinguish the fire in approximately 30 minutes with minor damage to the shed. 

The spreading brush fire left scorch marks 50 feet up a nearby pine tree.

The resident on Belleview Circle East was burning yard debris left over from Hurricane Matthew. 

The resident stated he believed he had extinguished the fire, however embers continued to smolder, starting a brush fire that quickly spread.

Burton fire officials warn residents to ensure that their yard debris fires are completely extinguished by stirring the pile while applying water to ensure the embers beneath are thoroughly soaked. Officials also encourage burning yard debris in containers or constructing borders or digging trenches around the burn pile to prevent the fire from spreading.

Beaufort/Port Royal fire recruiting new members 

The spring 2017 reserve membership recruiting period has begun, said Fire Chief Reece Bertholf.  

The City of Beaufort/Town of Port Royal Fire Department normally holds a reserve recruitment drive twice a year, once in the spring, and once in the late summer.  

The department then puts the reserve candidates through the same processes it uses to hire career firefighters. 

Candidates are interviewed by a panel of reserve and career personnel, required to pass a physical ability test and meet with the chief.  

“It is a comprehensive process of evaluation that once complete gives the remaining candidates a solid foundation to build upon in order to earn the title firefighter,” according to program coordinator Lt. Matt Bowsher.  

“We bring in people from all walks of life, all areas of our community, all backgrounds and with varying levels of firefighting skills and abilities ranging from none,to highly experienced. We then show them what to do and allow them to practice in order to take our ability test which gives them the opportunity to be a part of a top-notch organization.” 

Call  the Reserve Recruitment line at 843-470-3515 which will provide them all the information on how to get involved, or visit any of the department’s three locations at 135 Ribaut Road; 1120 Ribaut Road; and 1750 Paris Ave.

Firefighters kill blaze at diner

On May 16, fire crews from the City of Beaufort/Town of Port Royal Fire Department were dispatched to a reported fire at Beaufort’s iconic Sergeant White’s Diner at 1908 Boundary St.

Arriving fire crews found the proprietor fighting back the flames over his cooking area with a fire extinguisher and small flames were coming from the rooftop vent of the business. 

Patrons of the restaurant were evacuated from the restaurant while fire crews extinguished the remaining flames inside the cooking ventilation system and on the roof from the vent. 

The Fire Marshal’s division is investigating the cause of the fire.   

Gas leak caused by digging hole

Burton firefighters responded to a gas leak outside a private residence on Shell Point Road on May 18, which resulted in a home being evacuated and the road being closed.

Firefighters were called to the 3000 block of Shell Point Road for a natural gas leak resulting from the resident accidentally cutting into the gas line leading into the home while digging a hole for a fence post. 

Firefighters arrived on the scene and could see gas flowing from the ground only 3 feet from the residence and within feet of the on-demand gas heater on the side of the home and the electrical shutoff to the home.

The residence was evacuated and Burton firefighters in full gear who had to breath through their self-contained breathing apparatus entered the home to shut off the power to eliminate any ignition sources that could have lead to an explosion or flash fire. 

Shell Point Road was closed from Hickory Street to Broad River Drive. 

SCE&G arrived on the scene approximately an hour later and was able to shut the gas line off. 

The residents were allowed to return to their home and Shell Point Road was reopened. Burton fire officials caution residents to ensure the location of gas lines before digging in their yard.