FLORENCE, S.C. – Florence County Sheriff Kenney Boone recently sat down for a wide-ranging interview with the Morning News.
In the conversation, Boone talked about re-election plans, discussed his quest for raises for his deputies, fired back at critics and rumors and went into detail about a deadly Oct. 3 ambush in which seven officers were shot in the Vintage Place subdivision. He said he moved into Vintage Place seven to 10 days before the shooting that claimed the lives of Florence police Sgt. Terrence Carraway and Florence County sheriff's investigator Farrah Turner.
Q. What do you consider to be some of your highlights since you were elected as sheriff in 2004?
A. Wow, things have changed a lot. We've gone from a reactive agency before to a very proactive agency. We're very fortunate that ... we have some of the best equipment, some of the best training, have a lot of experience, which is important, and we've been able to do things.
My vision was to make sure that we're prepared, being prepared for whatever incident might occur. ... We have our drug lab up and running. Something in the future I hope is adding the addition of ballistics and also DNA. … We have a SWAT team, which I would put against anybody in the country. We've been nationally recognized; we have the best school resource officer program in the nation. ...
We have a great agency. We have best staff in the country. ... There's been a lot that we've done: adding traffic divisions and emergency response teams. We're pretty self-sufficient, just like any other agency probably in the state, other than capability of DNA and ballistics, and the reason DNA is so important is we can move so many cases so much faster, getting those results quicker…
Q. Have you made any decisions about your plans to run in 2020?
A. Oh, absolutely. You know, I would love to run probably two or three more terms. ... Obviously, I take pride in our agency, take pride in Florence County, and there's a lot of more things I want to do. And, you know, we plan to do that, if we're fortunate enough for the constituents to put us back in office. We plan on moving forward, just like we always have been, and being very proactive and and trying to make sure that our deputies get everything they need to do their job.
Q. Do you have any plans to seek a higher office?
A. No, sir. ... I was asked one time about maybe going to Columbia, something like that. But, you know, that's not me, I'm a law enforcement officer; this is where I want to be. ...
Q. You recently came before the Florence County Council a couple of times to ask for pay raises for the deputies in the sheriff’s office. How is that process going?
A. Right now, just like a lot of other things, it's kind of just kicking the can down the road. You know, council's in a position to do something. You know, council just says there's no money, and that's hard to sell that to our deputies when they see other projects going on within the county. And it was hard for them, you know, to convince them that that’s the situation but it's not. ...
You know, it's just it's tough. ... You know, if it weren't for the embarrassment, we have detention officers as well as deputies and other personnel who could apply and most likely be eligible for government assistance. And that's sad. You know, these folks have put their life on the line every day. And I think our constituents really don't have a have an understanding of what they do. We're really not thought about until we're needed, but when we're needed, they're all about us. ...
The situation we had back in October, the outpouring of support ... was overwhelming. It was just wonderful. It made me so proud to be from Florence County. ...
These folks need to make more, you know. They also deserve, in addition to increases, hazardous pay as well. I mean, these guys and gals are literally putting their life on the line every day. ...
Q. You've gotten a little testy with some other county personnel. Is that just your frustration just boiling over a little bit?
A. I'm a laid-back person. I get along with people, I treat people the way they treat me. But, you know, I see things that are going on, and I get frustrated. I get frustrated quick. I take care of my folks. I'll do anything in the world for them. I mean, our families and our deputies, they all come first. And you know, anything I can do to support them and stand up for them, I do that.
And knowing that things can be different and then being told that something's not there, you know, that bothers me. And there's been some personality conflicts and that sort of thing. And it's just getting into a situation where you see things going on, and I just feel like things would change if people could work together a lot closer. ...
Q. Are you in favor of a tax increase if that's what it would take to get raises?
A. I would do about anything, but see, the problem with the tax increase is we have is a cap based on CPI. ... Well, so you've got people in other counties which — like Horry — they're all about the tax increase with the cap stuff on those with millage. ... We'd love to be able to go to five, six, seven mills. ... If you did two mills, it would be worth $800,000 whatever. So to do what we need to do probably would take three, four mills probably. Because the state, what they've done, I mean, they've got a cap on us, and I mean the county's not in a position to even do that.
Just to give an example of stuff that frustrates me is ... just recently they ordered bulletproof vests and stuff for EMS. $60,000? ... We've the money for that? We found that. Well, if there's no money, how'd you find that? That's what frustrates me ... and that's what frustrates the deputies.
Q. You've alluded to frustrations in a couple of council meetings about some other media sources that have said some derogatory things against you, which also must be pretty frustrating, too.
A: Very frustrating. As an elected official, you know, we don't have constitutional rights, so people can talk about my mother, I can talk about this, that and the other thing and there ain't a thing I can do about it. That bothers me.
Our haters ... make up stuff, and I can't do anything about it. ... The rumors and stuff that I've heard are just unbelievable. I think there is a silent majority. I have people every day that come up to me and say, "We got your back. We know what's going on. We know that you're doing what's best. You know you're making the right decisions about things.”
I guess that's what keeps me going is knowing there are people out there that do truly care ... but I've got my, you know, certain amount of haters out there.
This social media and the drama that surrounds that like with Facebook and everything else ... You guys did a big story on it. We're one of the first agencies ... that uses Facebook, and ... we even were tweeting even at that time. ... That was a way that we could communicate to people what's going on. Well, it turned out to being anything we put out there, you know, people had negative stuff to say about it. It was negative this, negative that. You know these armchair quarterbacks talking about stuff, they don't know facts about anything, just making whatever accusations they want to make. ... So I was like, you know what? Just shut them down.
Q. What are some of the rumors or accusations that have bothered you the most?
A. One of the accusations is that my wife was related to a member of the family of the Hopkins, and I had called and had given the Hopkins a heads up that my people were coming. I can take a lot of things, but when it comes to my children — especially my people — I could lose it on somebody real quick, but I try to stay in control, not let stuff like that happen. ...
People, they're quick to have negative things about anything. It bothers me. It bothers my family. We live in a glass house. ... We understand, we live with it. Yes, it bothers us, but ain't a thing I can do about it. I just hope the majority of the public understand our frustration. They can see what's being done, particularly the haters that we have out there. ...
[A] majority of those haters have a reason to put blame on us for something that happened in their own life. Like there are several of the haters that just make up accusations. They bash us every day. They had suicide in their family and instead of accepting responsibility to deal with it themselves, they had to put the blame on somebody else, so they bash us. Those kind of things bother me.
In another situation, I was bashed for, you know, if the suspect in Vintage [Place] was black, we would have killed him. ... That is a boldface lie. There's not a racial bone in my body. And I'm telling you personally with those kinds of accusations and stuff, it's tough to deal with it.
One of the biggest problems with the drama is where a lot of it started was my relationship with my wife now. And her [ex-] husband is a narcissist, a full-blooded narcissist. And anything that he could do, anything he can make up about me, he would do that.
Then, I have had a relationship with his wife today, years ago. We had a long relationship. It didn't go anywhere. But in that situation, she's infatuated with me. He's infatuated with me. She sought him out, I think, to get to me. ... For them just to make it lies and accusations frustrates me.
Q. You think that's where some of the rumors have come about your health?
A. Absolutely. … You know, there's so many things out there. I've even heard that I had colon cancer. And that I was on my deathbed. It's gotten so bad that I've got corporate attorneys looking into HIPAA violations with a local hospital.
I can go there for anything. ... I went there for one of my children. But no, they turned around that I was back in the hospital. I was on my deathbed again. You know, I'm sick and tired of the drama, the lies, the false accusations.
And before you judge me, talk to me. Ask me. You know, these haters out there who don't like us because of things that have happened in their own lives, never once have they asked me about a situation where I could explain to them why we did this, or why did we handle a situation like that. ...
I guess they think that because of my position, they can just bash us and do this, and, you know, put photographs of our children out there and stuff. ... That frustrates me as well.
Q. Have you had any health issues that are real?
A. No health issues, other than just what anybody else would deal with.
Q. There's some people who swear you went away for weeks, and you were in rehab. …
A. I needed time, just like anybody else. It gets to the point where you get frustrated with things going on, and dealing with it's tough, and I've learned from, from everything. ... I've had a huge support system within my family and everybody else, and they understand daily what I deal with. ... The public doesn't see it. But, you know, anytime they can bash me for something negative, or twist anything and make it look negative, they do that.
Q. How long did you step away?
A. I really didn't step away. I was in constant contact with my staff, and daily, it's not that I wasn't there. I might not be in the office. I might be at the gym. ... The gym is like my getaway, and sometimes I'm at the gym for two or three hours. And the reason for that is, you know, I'm accessible. Just like today, I had several people that talked to me about issues or concerns or incidents or crime or whatever, which I've always wanted to be there. I'm accessible. I want to be in the public. I want anybody to feel comfortable coming up and talking to me about anything. ... But when time comes to work, I mean, we work. I mean we work hard. ...
We've got a lot of pride and ... we've got that competitive spirit with other agencies. And you know what? I love it, because of the relationship that that I have with other surrounding counties, other counties in the state and other states as well.
Q. Can you talk about your perspective on Oct. 3?
A. That day we executed a search warrant on the lower end of the county that had nothing to do with this particular incident. That had to do with stolen goods: air-conditioning units and that sort of thing.
We have a matrix which would ask questions. If it establishes enough probable cause, it shows "Yes." You now need to send SWAT. We need some special weapons and tactics. We need to have more people. We need to have this, that and the other. Well, that particular incident, we did the matrix, and yes, it showed that. We took everything down there and executed the search warrant without incident.
That afternoon one of my daughters had an event. I had picked her up early. We went home. We had just moved in that neighborhood about a week prior to that incident.
Q. Do you mean the Vintage Place neighborhood?
A. Yes. You wanted to know, so I'm telling you. So, I get home, she gets out and I get out, and I close the door. There's a gentlemen there that's working on the house, doing odds and ends. We're just moving in; he's doing the painting or whatever. He walks out, she walks in the house, and I could hear shots.
Scratch that. We drove up in the driveway. My daughter's getting out. Anyway, Farrah and all our folks drive by my house, and I think, "What in the world? Wonder what they doing?" I'm just thinking routine follow-up. Obviously they're doing something.
My daughter walks in, and it sounds like fireworks. I'm thinking to myself, "Man, that sounds like a .223." Trey [a deputy] comes out. I'm like, "Daggone, something going on." The door on my car is closed, and my neighbor comes back, so there's shots back here. I mean, everything's. ...
I open on my door where I could hear my radio, and I can hear Ben [another deputy] saying, "Don't come down the road."
Obviously, I knew people were hurt. I knew people were shot. They were giving out information, so I immediately came out of my driveway, went this way and came down this way, and took my Yukon and blocked the street, which ... is probably about 10 city blocks. I mean it's just a long way to a cul de sac where his house sat.
So what [Frederick] Hopkins had was the advantage of looking all the way down this road.
So what I did was I came in here really quick, came down here, and I put my Yukon and blocked the road…
We were steady under gunfire. It's like fireworks going, just going off, going off. Obviously, I had my folks coming in. I probably had 40 or 50 people there.
Terrence was on the way home going to Darlington. He heard it. Naturally, because of his training and experience, he was backing up his fellow officers. So he comes in, drives down, and he gets an apex of his door on the passenger side and does exactly what he should have done. ...
I didn't expect this. You know, the matrix didn't show it. We had no idea what Fred was going to do.
Q. The sheriff’s office had previous contact with the Hopkins family, correct?
A. We had, but it's been stuff like kid stealing this. Fred would show his behind. He would, you know, "I'm going to threaten to sue you because you say my kids stole something out of your house," and just always a constant something that never really showed any potential threat, especially like this.
Q. Did you know about ammunition he had at hand?
A. I mean, we knew some of his background. We didn't know that he had 100 and whatever was weapons in the house. I knew there was a lot; we have taken them at some point. We handed them back some time ago for whatever reason. We knew he was a military guy. You know, he had been a sharpshooter in competition since 1982. ...
Immediately, you know, I'm putting teams on perimeter. … They're sneaking. They're doing their thing … because he's barricaded. … Whatever takes, at the time, I'm saying, “Kill this SOB! Kill him NOW!”
Here I am thinking, "Who's going to be next?" So I'm calling to kill him, kill him. … They couldn't get a visual on where he was. … If I knew what I know now, I would have put people on roofs and shot down. … What we were doing, we're shooting straight over him. … The house was like Swiss cheese on the inside.
At that time, we start communication with him … and he gives up, comes out of the house unarmed.
You know, in the first thing came to mind while I was dealing with this was Leon [Lott, [Richland County sheriff]. Leon is one of my best friends. There's probably four or five or more sheriff's offices in this state that is as good as any state or the federal agency. So the first thing I do is call Leon. ... I wanted the best for our people.
Leon says we’re going to need to bring in the FBI. …
Even to this day, the FBI will tell you this is largest scene they've ever worked across the country. ...
Q: Do you have any regrets about that day?
A. I wish I could bring Farrah [Turner] back. … I would give anything to have her back.