NORTH AUGUSTA, SC (WJBF) – Details have been released leading up to the shooting in downtown North Augusta that left one officer wounded.
The initial call came in at approximately 4:34 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 9th, in regard to a possible burglary in progress. The caller described a black Dodge Ram pick-up truck and a silver Pontiac in a backyard and that “masked men” were loading items from a residence into a vehicle and then left in the direction of Trimmier Place.
A North Augusta Department of Public Safety officer encountered a black Dodge Ram pick-up near the area the suspect vehicle was last seen turning from Trimmier Place onto Marion Avenue and pulled the truck over in response to the report of a suspicious vehicle in the area.
The black Dodge Ram bore a North Carolina license plate and was, according to warrants for his arrest, being driven by 42-year-old Thomas M. Airington.
During the traffic stop, according to an NADPS incident report, Airington was observed trying to reach his hands back into the truck after being told to place his hand out of the driver’s side window. The responding officer stepped backward several feet and Airington sped away from the scene at a high rate of speed and onto Georgia Avenue.
15-year department veteran Lt. Aaron Fittery took over as primary pursuit vehicle following the incomplete traffic stop and chased the black 2021 Dodge Ram nine blocks as it neared the intersection of Georgia Avenue and West Martintown Road, where the suspect vehicle was involved in an accident with three other vehicles, flipping one of the vehicles, a pick-up.
The officer involved in the initial traffic stop stayed with the three crashed vehicles and victims, including several with neck and back complaints, while Lt. Fittery continued the pursuit.
During the pursuit, the incident report filed by the North Augusta Department of Public Safety states that Airington let three passengers “jump out” of the vehicle outside the Sno Cap Drive-in on West Avenue.
The pursuit lasted 1.6 miles.
After letting the other three occupants out of the 2021 black Dodge Ram, Thomas Airington, according to the incident report, continued driving until reaching the 400 block of Georgia Avenue where he stopped the truck, exited, and began firing on officers, striking Lt. Fittery in the leg.
North Augusta Public Safety Officers returned fire. According to a report, during the shooting, three Public Safety vehicles in total were struck by gunfire.
A civilian checked on the wounded officer and transported him to the hospital.
South Carolina Highway Patrol took over the crash scene with the overturned vehicle at West Martintown and Georgia Avenue. SLED then took over the shooting investigation.
North Augusta Department of Public Safety has charged Airington with failure to stop for a marked patrol car with blue lights and siren activated during a lawful traffic stop.
At this time, according to the North Augusta Department of Public Safety, it is believed that the original complaint of a burglary in progress appears to be unfounded.
NADPS Public Information Officer Lt. Tim Thornton says that no charges have been filed against the three passengers riding in the vehicle driven by Thomas Airington where he is alleged to have attempted to elude officers with North Augusta Public Safety.