‘He was ambushed’: S.C. deputy slain in the line of duty

Published: Jun. 22, 2022 at 11:06 AM EDT
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MOORE, S.C. (WHNS/Fox Carolina) - The Spartanburg County community is remembering the life of a young deputy who was shot in the line of duty while responding to a call.

Around 3:20 p.m. on Tuesday, deputies were called to a domestic incident on Chaffee Drive in the Oak Forest subdivision. Spartanburg County Deputy Austin Derek Aldridge was shot as he approached the home.

We’re told Deputy Aldridge was taken to the hospital where he sadly passed away around 9:26 p.m., according to the Sheriff’s Office.

Deputy Austin Aldridge
Deputy Austin Aldridge(Spartanburg Co. Sheriff's Office)

Aldridge was just 25 years old. He was a former student at North Greenville University and served the Spartanburg County community as a deputy for three years. Austin’s wife, Jessica, also attended NGU.

North Greenville released a statement on the passing of its former students:

“We grieve at the loss of Deputy Aldridge, even as we pray for his wife Jessica and their families,” said NGU President Dr. Gene C. Fant, Jr. “NGU equips transformational leaders for church and society, and these leaders are prepared to offer Christ-like service no matter where they are called. We are grateful for his sacrificial service to our community. His desire to serve with distinction was well-known to all. He loved Spartanburg County and serving under Sheriff Wright in particular. May God have mercy on us all as we seek His face in the midst of this tragedy.”

Aldridge was described as a loving husband, son, friend, and partner to many in a GoFundMe. The GoFundMe was made to help with the unexpected expenses related to the deputy’s passing and the coming months ahead.

Aldridge was an organ and tissue donor. His body was transported from Spartanburg Regional on Wednesday to Columbia, where officials said his donation will go to help dozens of people.

“True to his servant’s heart, Austin was both an organ and tissue donor,” sheriff’s office spokesman Lt. Kevin Bobo said. “He is being transported from the hospital to Columbia for that procedure, and approx. 70 people will benefit from his generous donation.”

Deputies said after shooting Deputy Aldridge, the suspect, 63-year-old Duane Leslie Heard, took off in a vehicle.

Officials followed Heard and tried to stop him near Anderson Mill Road and Highway 290, but said he acted like he was going to surrender before firing at deputies again. Thankfully, no deputies were injured during this exchange of gunfire.

Heard wrecked his vehicle near the Keurig Dr. Pepper plant and ran into the woods. SWAT agents and K-9s were called in to locate Heard in the woods where he was arrested.

According to deputies, the suspect was shot twice during one of the incidents, but it was unclear where he was hit. He was transported to the hospital for treatment.

Neighbors on Chaffee Drive described the scene as “totally unusual” for the area. Wallace Burnette described seeing a deputy lying on the porch of a home near his.

The Greenville County Sheriff’s Office posted a message on Facebook saying, “As this situation in Spartanburg unfolds PLEASE keep our brothers and sisters at Spartanburg County Sheriff’s Office - Sheriff Chuck Wright in your prayers.”

The South Carolina Law Enforcement Division sent agents to the scene to investigate the shooting, which is standard protocol.

A candlelight memorial is planned for Friday at 8:30 p.m. outside the Spartanburg County Sheriff’s Office to honor Aldridge.

A memorial of balloons, flowers and notes is growing outside the sheriff’s office for Aldridge.

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