COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — Officials will seek the death penalty against a South Carolina man charged with shooting seven police officers in an ambush, killing two of them, a prosecutor announced Thursday during a hearing where the defendant twice called the prosecutor “Fat Eddie.”
Hearings where prosecutors officially announce a death penalty case are usually routine and just a few minutes long in South Carolina, with the prosecutor reading the legal language.
But Frederick Hopkins, in court in Florence County without his lawyer, told the judge he wanted to speak and complained for eight minutes that he wasn’t given a preliminary hearing in the time provided by law. He also said armed deputies surrounding him in the courtroom were just looking for a reason to harm him.
“Scratch my nose, maybe, and they would have shot me,” Hopkins said.
Hopkins ambushed three Florence County deputies he knew were coming to his home in October 2018 to conduct a search warrant after his son was accused of sexually abusing his children, authorities said.
He then shot four more officers as they rushed to help the wounded officers, investigators said.
Florence Police Sgt. Terrence Carraway and Florence County Sheriff’s deputy Farrah Turner were killed. Solicitor Ed Clements is seeking the death penalty for the deaths of the officers.
Hopkins, a lawyer disbarred in 1984 after agreeing he took $18,000 in lawyer fees he shouldn’t have collected, looked at the prosecutor as he entered the courtroom Thursday and said, “well, if it isn’t Fat Eddie.”
Hopkins’ attorney, Aimee Zmroczek, was not in the courtroom. Clements said he notified her of the hearing. Circuit Judge Michael Nettles did not question him or Hopkins to why she wasn’t there.
Zmroczek said Thursday afternoon she could not discuss the case because of a gag order by the judge.
After Clements spent a few minutes reading the notice, Hopkins said he wanted to speak, according to a video of the hearing by Florence TV station WPDE.
“I’m not your lawyer. But it would probably be in your best interest to not say anything,” the judge said.
Hopkins then spoke for eight minutes, mostly saying Clements has not followed rules about criminal cases and evidence.
“Mr. Clements the Third, elegant though he is, dapperly dressed, does not obey the rules of the south Carolina criminal procedures,” Hopkins said.
After eight minutes of more insults against Clements and the magistrates he blamed for the delayed preliminary hearing, Nettles stopped Hopkins.
“Now is not the time to do that,” Nettles said.
“I think it is,” Hopkins responded.
“No it’s not,” the judge answered, then abruptly ended the hearing.
Hopkins, his legs shackled to his arms, struggled to gather up an armful of books, legal files and papers. He looked at Clements on more time.
“Thank you Fat Eddie,” Hopkins said. “Roll it up and choke on it.”
Clements never responded to the insults.
Follow Jeffrey Collins on Twitter at https://twitter.com/JSCollinsAP.