JOHNS ISLAND, S.C. (WCBD) – The search for an armed-and-dangerous shooting suspect, which lasted more than 24 hours on Johns Island, has now come to an end.
The Charleston County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) confirmed on Thursday afternoon that 38-year-old Ernest Burbage III is now dead. He was wanted for attempted murder in a shooting Wednesday afternoon and a second shooting involving a CCSO deputy later Wednesday evening in the same area.
For more than a day, Burbage III remained on the loose on the island and in that time, he shot two people including CCSO Master Deputy James Gilbreath, who was shot in the head on Thursday night, and also a South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED) K-9 named Rico, until Burbage himself was shot and killed by police Thursday afternoon.
“I’m very relieved it’s over,” Johns Island neighbor Michelle Craven said. “I mean, very relieved.”
Many Johns Island neighbors say they are less on edge tonight after state and local law enforcement officials announced at 5:30 p.m. Thursday afternoon that Burbage III was no longer a threat to the community.
“SLED SWAT and Dorchester County deputies engaged him when he presented a firearm,” SLED Chief Mark Keel said, “and he was shot and died at the scene.”
Keel says around 2:00 p.m. SLED’s SWAT Team inserted a robot into a home believed to connected to their search for Burbage. Keel says following the robot clearing the home, they sent in SLED K-9 Rico.
“Very shortly after he was inserted,” he said, “there was a gunshot, and he was killed by Ernest Burbage.”
Officials say this is a difficult day and they ask that you keep 3-year-old K-9 Rico and his SLED family in your thoughts and prayers.
“He joined us just over a year and he served as a member of SLED’s SWAT Team and our K-9 Tracking Team during that time,” Keel said.
Craven says she didn’t get much sleep in the last 24 hours knowing that Burbage was still on the loose, but she says she can now finally breathe a sigh of relief.
“Unfortunately,” she said, “this led to what it led to and there’s nothing else that anybody else could’ve done. I hate to say I’m relieved he’s dead because that sounds cold, but I am relieved that the situation is over with and that whatever he was struggling with, he’s no longer struggling with it.”
SLED and CCSO provided an update on Master Deputy James Gilbreath, who was shot in the head by Burbage Thursday night, saying Gilbreath has been released from the hospital and is recovering from his injuries.