Skip to comments.Dispute Over Land Prompts 13-Hour Standoff Between a Family and Deputies; Two Officers Killed
Posted on 12/09/2003 2:56:08 AM PST by John W
ABBEVILLE, S.C. (AP) - A father and son angered by a state plan to seize some of their land allegedly shot and killed an officer who went to the home, sparking a 13-hour standoff that ended in a "horrendous gunfight" in which another officer was killed, authorities and neighbors said. At least 100 officers surrounded the rural home of Arthur Bixby in western South Carolina on Monday. Bixby's wife then holed up in an apartment in town and threatened to shoot bystanders if her husband or son were injured; she was promptly arrested, State Law Enforcement Division Chief Robert Stewart said.
It began Monday morning when a magistrate's officer went to the house in a rural part of the state to follow up on an incident from the previous week involving a dispute between Department of Transportation workers and someone from the house, officials said.
When the officer failed to return, two deputies went to the Bixby home looking for him.
What happened next is unclear, but the deputies called for help and law enforcement officials surrounded the home, and the standoff began.
Eleven hours later, officers unsuccessfully tried to storm the home and were shot at with powerful weapons, Stewart said.
"I've never seen so much force," Stewart said. None of the family members tried to negotiate with officers during the standoff.
"This was planned," Stewart said.
The gunfight lasted about 10 minutes and police fired tear gas inside the home. Bixby's son, 36-year-old Steven Bixby, surrendered. Two hours later, officers entered the home and arrested Arthur Bixby, who apparently was wounded in the gunfight. He was hospitalized and his condition was not available early Tuesday.
No formal charges had been filed as of early Tuesday.
At some point during the standoff, the Bixbys destroyed two remote control robots authorities sent into the house to figure out what was happening, Stewart said.
Inside the home, authorities found a dead deputy and what they described as anti-American literature and suicide notes. Similar material also was found inside the apartment in town where Bixby's wife was arrested. Authorities did not say whose apartment it was.
Stewart said the family had prepared for the standoff and fortified the house's doors to make it harder for police to break in.
Authorities identified the two dead officers as Danny Wilson and Donnie M. Ouzts.
Ouzts apparently had been shot from a distance with a rifle, state Public Safety spokesman Sid Gaulden said; Wilson was found inside the home. Authorities would not say which one first went to the house.
Gene Land, Bixby's neighbor who lives about a half-mile away, said Steven Bixby was angry because the state planned to take some of his land to widen the highway. The Bixbys had lived in the house for more than 10 years, Land said.
A dispute Thursday between state transportation workers and someone from the home on Highway 72 precipitated the incident, DOT spokesman Pete Poore said.
Planned standoff kills two
Father and son surrendered in flurry of bullets
By Charmaine Smith
December 9, 2003
ABBEVILLE Two law enforcement officers were killed in a shooting that led to an all-day standoff between officers and gunmen inside an Abbeville home Monday that ended in "a horrendous gunfight."
The standoff at the corner of S.C. 72 and Union Church Road ended shortly after 11 p.m., about 14 hours after it started, with the surrender of Arthur Bixby.
Mr. Bixbys son, Steven Vernon Bixby, surrendered shortly after countless gunshots were fired upon the house about 9 p.m. The elder Bixby surrendered after a second round of tear gas and bullets about 11 p.m., State Law Enforcement Division Chief Robert Stewart said.
"They never negotiated with us," Mr. Stewart said.
Donnie Ouzts, 63, of the Abbeville County Magistrates Office, was found dead early Monday several yards away from the house.
Abbeville County Sheriff Charles Goodwin said Mr. Ouzts went to the house Monday morning apparently in an attempt to resolve a property dispute. When Mr. Ouzts didnt respond to dispatchers, two other deputies with the sheriffs office responded to the house.
Danny Wilson, an Abbeville County Sheriffs Office deputy from Calhoun Falls, was found dead inside the house after officers stormed the home just before 9 p.m., Chief Stewart said.
The second deputy, who was not identified, escaped uninjured and was back on the scene trying to negotiate with the gunman later in the afternoon, Sheriff Goodwin said.
Chief Stewart, in a briefing to members of the media about 11:15 p.m., said the shooters apparently had planned the attack. Two other people in the house Steven Bixbys mother and her mentally disabled son were taken to the Abbeville Arms apartment complex and told to remain there.
The chief said the two were told to "start shooting at people" if they heard of any violence at the Union Church Road home and that suicide notes, wills and anti-government literature were found inside the house.
Chief Stewart said officers first had to stabilize the scene at the apartment complex before opening a more aggressive stance at the house.
Steven Bixby and his mother, whose name was not available late Monday, had been taken into custody. Arthur Bixby apparently suffered a gunshot wound around 11 p.m. and was transported to the hospital.
"I go to every bad SWAT call myself, and Ive never been under this type of gunfire before in my 30 years with SLED," Chief Stewart said.
The standoffs first known victim, Mr. Ouzts, was a state constable, officers used by agencies on an as-needed basis. Any individual can become a constable if he or she completes a small amount of required training, Anderson County Sheriff Gene Taylor said.
But Abbeville County Magistrate Tommy Ferguson said a check of the offices logs did not indicate Mr. Ouzts was there to serve papers at the residence. Although he didnt know for sure, Mr. Ferguson suspected that his employee of eight years was simply there to help other law enforcement officials on the scene.
A state Department of Transportation spokesman said Mondays standoff followed an incident last week involving a man at the house and several workers. The man was upset with plans to widen S.C. 72 in front of the house.
Little information was available about the Bixbys Monday except from friends and neighbors at the scene, who gave differing accounts.
Johnny Copelend, owner of B.J.s Bar and Grill located near the scene, said Steven Bixby was a regular customer at his bar and that he would never have expected him to be part of what transpired Monday.
"Hes a nice guy. He got along with everybody in here," Mr. Copelend said.
A neighbor, Gene Land, said Steven Bixby has lived in Abbeville for the past 12 or 15 years, after moving from New Hampshire. Mr. Land said the 36-year-old Mr. Bixby was unpredictable and that he wasnt too surprised by the turn of events.
"Some days he was a friendly as he could be and other days he wasnt," he said.
He said Steven Bixby was disabled after hurting his back while working at Flexible Technologies about four years ago. He most recently worked as a food vendor at carnivals and festivals, Mr. Land said.
A food-vending trailer was visible outside the house Monday, where FBI, State Law Enforcement Division, and Greenwood and Abbeville city and county officials were part of the standoff throughout the day.
About 8:30 p.m., a fire was started at the end of the house, lighting up the home with an orange glow. At 8:48 p.m., about seven shots were fired. Two minutes later, more shots were fired in rapid succession.
Subsequent rounds of shots rang out shortly before 9 p.m. and movement around the house was visible. A gaseous substance then filled the air, choking workers on the scene and forcing people on the scene into their cars or out of the area.
A restaurant close to the scene gave out tea to help people fleeing from the gas.
Lance Cpl. Steve Sleuder, a South Carolina Highway Patrol spokesman, was one of the first people on the scene Monday morning. He found Mr. Ouzts on the ground outside the house and positioned a patrol car between Mr. Ouzts and the house to retrieve the officer from the scene. He had blood on his pants.
"We got him out of there," Cpl. Sleuder said.
Before news of Mr. Wilsons death, at least 30 family and friends of the slain deputy had gathered near the magistrates office Monday evening. Family members who did not want to be identified said they had received no information from police.
The shooters inside the house had an AR-15 assault rifle, capable of penetrating a bullet-proof vest, and a 7-mm. Magnum, Chief Stewart said.
The chief said officers used every means possible to negotiate with the gunman. SLED had an armored personnel vehicle on the scene. Welders arrived on the scene in the afternoon to install a battering ram on the front of the vehicle. Officers also used a loudspeaker to communicate with the gunman. Psychiatrists also were on the scene.
Officers had a robot designed to get closer to the scene without putting any officers in danger. About 5 p.m., officers could be heard over the loudspeaker saying:
"Steven, I told you we were not going to leave you. I want you to come out."
Also from the Anderson Independent Mail
Standoff preceded by threats last week over road project
By Nicholas Charalambous
December 8, 2003
The man at the center of a police shooting and hostage taking in Abbeville County threatened workers with the state Department of Transportation with physical violence just three days before.
Transportation Department spokesman Pete Poore said a man last Thursday uprooted stakes to be used in the widening and realignment of S.C. 72 in front of the 4 Union Church Road home where Steve Bixby held off police Monday.
Last Thursday, someone in the house saw transportation department employees placing the stakes, came outside and made threats of physical violence that were considered serious enough for the local transportation department office to advise the Abbeville County Sheriffs Office, Mr. Poore said.
"I dont know exactly what he said," Mr. Poore said about the man. "He pulled the stakes out of the ground and threw them in the middle of the road."
The state had purchased all the needed right of way from the homes previous owner, Haskell Johnson, in August 1960, when S.C. 72 was first conceived as a potential four-lane highway from Clinton to Atlanta, officials said.
The home, now titled in the name of Rita and Arthur Bixby, was purchased from Mr. Johnsons estate in 1999, according to court records.
Construction near the Bixby home was set to begin Tuesday or Wednesday Mr. Poore said.
The existing highway, cutting diagonally in front of the Bixby property, was to be torn up and replaced by the new five-lane highway, planned to run farther away from and parallel to the home, according to a right of way map.
"He would have come out better," Mr. Poore said.
Planning for the first stretch of improvements to S.C. 72 through the town of Abbeville between S.C. 28 and Secondary Road 103 began in 2000 or 2001, according to Mr. Poore and Rick Green, a director at the Upper Savannah Council of Governments involved in the project.
The $9.46 million widening, part of a joint vision of Georgia and South Carolina transportation officials, was seen as a way to develop an alternate commercial corridor to Interstate 85 that could spur economic and industrial development, Mr. Green said.
No records were immediately available to indicate any objections lodged by the Bixby household against the project at official public hearings, Mr. Poore said. Mr. Green and Abbeville Assistant City Manager Nolan Wiggins also said they didnt recall the project arousing any unusual hostility among local residents.
You're talking about the police, right?
My verdicts in. Murdering lunatics who can't read a deed.
But that small fact doesn't stop the anarcho-ideologues from cheering them on.
Did you also visit the video website linked in #104? The son ranted about how they killed in self-defense, as if building a road on land legally sold to the good people of South Carolina by the previous owner gives these lunatics a right to commit murder.
"It was self-defense! They pounded stakes into the ground!"
Those mug shots are not there because they donated too much money to the Boy Scouts.
"Pssst. Don't show your hand. Don't let them know how much you resent their fascist takeover of the street, lest they round you up and hang you for being a True UberPatriot. Keep your powder dry, and bide your time. They're placing mind-control devices in the gutters, and are beaming their wicked signals into your home. But don't fret. Your day of vengeance will come. Live free or die! Live free and kill!"
"Pssst. Look at how mean the Blue Meanies were to those harmless old people. They had no right. They were probably coveting the pirate gold buried under their old peach tree. It's all so unfair, just like when your step-daddy used to beat you and place you all hungry in the dark cellar. You should post a reply, and throw in a nasty jab at the fascist government which is all hell-bent on personally making your life miserable."