IOP police chief says response to fugitive was appropriate
Isle of Palms Police Chief Thomas E. Buckhannon, III defended his decision to call SWAT for assistance in the apprehension of Joshua Ainsworth. He said he was concerned about the safety of all involved. (Scott Garrand/WCIV)
SWAT members walk their way to the hotel Thursday just before noon. (Matt Dreyer/WCIV)
ISLE OF PALMS, S.C. (WCIV) -- Isle of Palms Police Chief Thomas E. Buckhannon, III said Friday he believes Joshua Ainsworth slipped away from SWAT just before they arrived on the Island Friday.
"We surmise that he probably walked down the side of the balcony and jumped onto a nearby building," Buckhannon said.
The chief asked for the assistance of SWAT after his agency learned Ainsworth was staying at The Palms Hotel. The 31-year-old man had several warrants for his arrest.
An army of law enforcement officials, including snipers, SWAT members with assault rifles and gas masks stormed the third-floor room where Ainsworth was staying. They deployed flash bang grenades and tear gas. After the fog cleared, they found the room was empty.
Fortunately, a tip later in the day was called in to the Isle of Palms Police Department. Chief Buckhannon said that tip led to Ainsworth's arrest at the North Charleston Walmart near Tanger Outlet Center.
Buckhannon said the caller provided Captain Kimberly S. Usry with key details that were then shared with authorities in North Charleston.
"Fortunately, the information panned out and she (Captain Usry) was able to give them enough information that they were able to go to the exact spot where he was at."
Looking back on the situation, the police chief said anyone can go back and "Monday morning quarterback." He said he was concerned about the safety of officers, visitors to the beach and others staying in the hotel.
"It was a situation that we didn't know what we had," he said.
His officers recovered a handgun from a truck Ainsworth was spotted riding in on Wednesday. Because of that, the chief said, they were concerned Ainsworth was in the room and heavily armed.
"When people are desperate, they do desperate things," he said.