The Charleston County Sheriff’s Office has now identified a deputy who died after he was shot by a suspect barricaded in an apartment Monday night.
Deputy Joseph Matuskovic. 45 years old, passed away a few hours after he was shot through the door of a unit at the Gardens on Ashley River apartment complex. Fellow deputy Michael Ackerman was also struck in the leg. He is undergoing surgery at a nearby hospital Tuesday. The suspect also died in the ensuing standoff, according to the Charleston County Coroner’s Office.
Assistant Sheriff Mitch Lucas said Matuskovic and Ackerman responded with off-duty deputies who provide security for the complex. A trainee was also with the group. According to Lucas, both Matuskovic and Ackerman were wearing body armor when they approached the apartment belonging to the suspect 38-year-old Michael Oswald. When a voice inside the apartment asked who it was, Lucas said the deputies responded. “When they identified themselves as the sheriff’s office, the party inside started firing through the door, striking two of the officers,” he said.
At that point, at least one of the other deputies returned fire. Lucas said state police are trying to figure out how many officers fired back. The other deputies were able to grab Matuskovic and Ackerman and pull the pair away from the door.
Dozens of officers from several Charleston-area law enforcement agencies, including Charleston Police, North Charleston Police, and the State Law Enforcement Division responded to the “officer down” call a little after 8:30 p.m. A nine-hour standoff ensued, as officers tried several times to establish contact with the suspected shooter. But Lucas said there was never any response from inside the apartment. Nearby apartments were evacuated as the standoff continued and a perimeter was established.
The Charleston Police SWAT team finally tossed a robot inside the apartment and noted no activity. Officers then entered the apartment themselves and found Oswald’s body. He was later determined by the Charleston County Coroner’s Office to have died from a gunshot wound, but Coroner Rae Wooten indicated she could not yet say if the gunshot was self-inflicted or came from the deputies’ return fire.
Oswald had several previous arrests on his record, including a hit-and-run conviction last year. He was also arrested for simple assault in 2007 and again for illegal possession of a concealed weapon (recorded only as a weapon that was “not a pistol”) in 2013. Both the latter charges were dropped.
A Charleston County staffer who was working in a support role also died of natural causes during the standoff, according to Wooten. She said 58-year-old Larry Britton managed emergency radio communications for Charleston County and was working at the county offices when he suddenly developed a health problems (some reports say it was heart-related). The coroner said Britton died around 3:00 a.m.
Matuskovic was hired by the Charleston County Sheriff’s Office in 2011. He had been a Charleston police officer for 14 years prior to that. Matuskovic was a field training officer with CCSO, according to the Charleston Post & Courier.
SLED is now handling the investigation. Lucas said Sheriff Al Cannon has cut short a current trip to Israel and is now on his way back to the department.