As an Oconee County sheriff’s deputy clings to life after being shot in the head, officials in that northwestern South Carolina county plan to install bulletproof glass in their patrol vehicles and in those of all the municipalities in the county.
It will cost about $500,000, County Council chair Matthew Durham said.
“We want to protect the men and women who protect us,” he said.
Cpl, Lucas Watts, 27, was shot during a traffic stop that became a pursuit on Nov. 16 in Fair Play, South Carolina. The suspect, later identified as Gregory Wayne Maxwell, 50, is accused of firing at Watts’ vehicle, hitting the windshield with a bullet and striking Watts in the head.
Watts’ family said in a Caringbridge update last Friday Watts lost his right eye.
“They removed what remained of it on Wednesday (Nov, 27). The procedure went really well and they were able to save approximately 3/4 of his right eye muscles which was good news. They will place a prosthetic eye at a later time. We’re also happy to report he is opening his left eye which is yet another sign of progress!” the post said.
Watts is off a ventilator, out of trauma ICU and is expected to be transferred to the Shepherd Center in Atlanta for rehabilitation, the post said. The Shepherd Center specializes in treatment of people with brain and spinal cord injuries.
Durham said another deputy’s windshield was hit by gunfire that day, but the deputy escaped inquiry because he was leaning out of the car, shooting at the suspect.
Maxwell was wounded, but no details on his injuries have been released. He faces five charges in the shooting.
Maxwell and Watts are both being treated at Prisma Health Greenville Memorial Hospital.
Durham said he had researched bulletproof windshields two years ago when another deputy was involved in a shootout and his car incapacitated, but he didn’t make a proposal to the county to install some.
“It’s a big regret I have,” he said.
Oconee County has about $13.6 million in various funds that could be used for bulletproof glass, Durham said.
Meanwhile, Watts’ family has surpassed its fundraising goal of $175,000 by $550 on the Serve and Protect website. The Pickens Police Department and the Market at the Mill are planning a bluegrass benefit concert from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Dec. 19.
Oconee County Sheriff Mike Crenshaw said during a church service, “I saw a dead man come back to life Thursday night. Because of God and intervening prayer, I truly believe.”
Watts’ family called the recovery process a “rollercoaster ride.”
He makes progress and then slips back.
“After talking with others who have experienced brain injuries, we felt reassured that the back and forth is just part of the journey. So, we continue to prayerfully wait,” the post said.
©2023 The State.
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.