OCONEE COUNTY, S.C. (WSPA) – Deputies have taken a person of interest into custody after they said a man drove through a gate and fence Thursday night at Oconee Nuclear Station.
The Pickens County Sheriff’s Office said Doyle Whisenhunt was located in a vacant home on Jones Mill Road in Pickens County. He was taken without incident and handed over to the Oconee County Sheriff’s Office.
The Oconee County Sheriff’s Office said Whisenhunt has been charged with: Hit and Run, Assault/Attempted Murder, Malicious Injury to Property, and Trespassing.
According to the Oconee County Sheriff’s Office, at around 8:06 p.m. deputies were called to the nuclear station after a man reportedly drove a 2002 Toyota Camry through the exit side gate on the Highway 183 side of the station.
After hitting pop-up barricades, which were activated by security at the nuclear station, the man backed up and drove down a dirt road, where Duke Energy security reportedly tried to block the car in.
The driver allegedly attempted to drive into security officers before going through a fence and then drove out of the exit of the plant, nearly hitting a security truck with a guard in it as he did.
After getting back onto Highway 183, the sheriff’s office said the driver went into Pickens County and pulled onto a property on Jones Mill Road, where shots were fired.
The sheriff’s office said the man fired shots before the property owner fired warning shots, causing the man to leave.
“No shots were fired by Duke security officers,” Crenshaw said. “No shots were fired by law enforcement who was obviously not on scene and no shots were fired by the suspect.”
Officials said the man had driven up to the gate about an hour before and was turned away.
The Oconee County Sheriff’s Office said the vehicle was found Friday afternoon in the Six Mile area of Pickens County.
Pickens County deputies said the vehicle was found deep in the woods near a home off Stoneybrook Circle.
The vehicle was believed to have gotten stuck and was abandoned around 9 p.m. Thursday, according to the Pickens County Sheriff’s Office.
“I can tell you that the suspect was not inside the vehicle,” Crenshaw said.
They said the driver may have requested a ride out of the area, but deputies were still actively searching with K9s and a helicopter Friday afternoon.
The sheriff’s office identified a person of interest in the case as 66-year-old Doyle Wayne Whisenhunt of Lockesburg, Arkansas.
Whisenhunt was taken into custody Friday evening in Pickens County.
Pickens County deputies said that Whisenhunt was found in a vacant home by a person who was checking his father’s property.
Whisenhunt was also wanted in Arkansas on drug and weapons charges.
Oconee County Sheriff Mike Crenshaw said, at this point in their investigation, there was no evidence that this was domestic terrorism. SLED and the FBI are now investigating.
“It is a huge matter because one thing that happened was that one hour before all this took place same driver, a white male same vehicle came onto the property, I’m not sure at the same gate, and he was met by security and asked to leave and left and came back,” Master Deputy Jimmy Watt said.
Duke Energy released to us a statement saying in part “Oconee Nuclear Station is operating safely. Duke Energy has comprehensive security plans and a well-trained security workforce in place. Nuclear stations are protected 24 hours a day by armed, well-trained security officers.”
The NRC also released a statement saying in part “Oconee’s security personnel responded promptly and effectively, ensuring the vehicle did not approach sensitive areas of the facility, demonstrating the effectiveness of the NRC-mandated security measures. All security personnel and vehicles were unharmed, and the site maintained its standard security posture throughout the event. Oconee continues to operate safely, the public remains safe, and all U.S. nuclear power plants are operating at their normal security levels.”
Whisenhunt is being held on a $320,500 bond. His next court date is scheduled for January 4.