SWAT called to IOP hotel; Wanted man evaded arrest - WCIV-TV | ABC News 4 - Charleston News, Sports, Weather

SWAT called to IOP hotel; Wanted man evaded arrest

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Above is a photo from our Coconut Joe's beachcam of the scene. (WCIV) Above is a photo from our Coconut Joe's beachcam of the scene. (WCIV)
Cell photo from the scene of the incident (Matt Dreyer/WCIV) Cell photo from the scene of the incident (Matt Dreyer/WCIV)
SWAT members walk their way to the hotel Thursday just before noon. (Matt Dreyer/WCIV) SWAT members walk their way to the hotel Thursday just before noon. (Matt Dreyer/WCIV)
Ainsworth (Provided) Ainsworth (Provided)

By Brian Troutman
btroutman@abcnews4.com

ISLE OF PALMS, S.C. (WCIV) -- Law enforcement officers blocked the street along the popular beach strip as Ocean Boulevard was decorated with crime scene tape.

Isle of Palms mayor Dick Cronin said a standoff was ongoing. The suspect was believed to be in The Palms Hotel. That's about all the information the mayor of the small island town had other than the fact that he could confirm SWAT was called to the scene.

It was all over a man with several warrants for his arrest. Major James Brady with the Charleston County Sheriff's Office said when the suspect wouldn't comply with the requests to exit the hotel from officers with the Isle Palms Police Department, SWAT was called to assist.

That man, officials say, is 31-year-old Joshua Ainsworth of Lexington. On Ainsworth's record are several charges of bank fraud.

Witnesses at the scene said law enforcement officers entered the hotel and the crime scene was widened just before 11:30 a.m. The business area along the strip was evacuated. Coconut Joe's, Island Joe's and several other businesses were closed for lunch on a day that may have seen spring break boosts in business.

Behind the locked doors of Coconut Joe's were employees, kept safely from the incident going down less than a stone's throw away from the beach restaurant.

"The good news is that it wasn't that dramatic, because we weren't open yet," said Coconut Joe's owner Joe Petro.

Petro said the area was evacuated at about 9:45 a.m. He was told the person of interest was on the third floor of the hotel.

"When they told us to evacuate, they said it would be about two hours," Petro said at 11:45 a.m. "However there doesn't seem to be any movement towards flushing him out."

The actions of officials were not be measured by movement. Petro said the presence of force was obvious.

"There is a whole army out here of SWAT guys and their equipment," he said.

Right at noon, witnesses on the scene said they heard two loud booms believed to be related to the standoff. Sharpshooters were positioned on the roof of the hotel, officers stormed the hotel room... Ainsworth was nowhere to be found.

Major Brady has confirmed that SWAT members used "flash bang" grenades and tear gas during the standoff.

"Some time during the course of all that, we feel like he sensed the police were on to him," Charleston County Sheriff Al Cannon said. "We found some things that suggest he left in a haste."

Officials say Ainsworth was traveling in the area with a friend. IOP police officers stopped a pickup truck on Wednesday and later learned the passenger, Ainsworth, had several warrants for his arrest from Horry County and Georgia. Cannon said officers stopped the truck again Thursday morning on a traffic-related offense.

"During a course of that stop, a handgun was found in the vehicle," Cannon said.

Information in the vehicle led officers to the hotel in search of Ainsworth.

If you have any information on the whereabouts of Joshua Ainsworth you are asked to contact the Charleston County Sheriff's Office at 843-202-1700 or Crime Stoppers at 843-554-1111.

The U.S. Marshals are also involved with the investigation.

Ainsworth is approximately 5-foot-10 and 220 pounds. His last known address is 266 Alexandra Road, Mount Pleasant.

 

Check back with ABC News 4 as we continue to follow this story.

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