Let's Make a Deal
"Let go of the gun," Rish said. "And I'll let you live."
Great, thought Pruitt. Now, the son-of-a-bitch thinks he's Monty Hall.
"No," the officer counter offered. "You let go of the gun, and I'll let you live."
Rish saw that his bid for a deal wasn't going anywhere—and neither was Pruitt. He reverted to his original tack, a renewed conviction with it.
"You're a dead pig, motherf___er!" Rish screamed.
Rish wrestled for control of the firearm with renewed vigor. But Rish had no monopoly on adrenaline or determination, and with every spittle-laced threat the ex-con's coppery breath expelled, Pruitt felt his own blood boil.
The officer knew that the two of them were hamstrung, with his own finger virtually blown off and Rish handcuffed. The damnable confines of the car didn't help, either. Nor did it comfort Pruitt to know that Rish could turn his liability into an asset should he start beating Pruitt with the cuffs. The longer the fight went on, the greater the likelihood the man would try it.
They'd been in this life-or-death struggle now for...how long? A minute? Ten? Forever? Pruitt had to go on the offensive. His mind went to a backup weapon he kept in his uniform pants, a .32 caliber Kel-Tec. He reached for it.
"I see what you're doing," Rish warned Pruitt. "I see what you're up to."
Pruitt pulled the Kel-Tech out of his pocket. But as soon as it cleared, Rish compensated. Bucking with the savagery of a Brahma bull, Rish kicked at Pruitt's arms with his knees. A sharp blow struck the officer's elbow and jarred his grip. The backup gun flew onto the driver's side floorboard.
Pruitt's heart sank.
Visibly delighted and emboldened by his success, Rish renewed his threats of Pruitt's impending doom.
What Rish didn't know was that Pruitt had one last surprise up his sleeve. That is, down his left ankle: A five-shot Smith & Wesson.
Reaching down with his left hand, Pruitt grabbed the .38. Before Rish could react, the officer whipped the weapon out, stuck it in the man's side, and fired.
The two rounds that Pruitt fired seemed to do little more than piss the man off, and feeling that the man was getting the best of the Glock, Pruitt kept firing. He didn't stop until the weapon went "click."
"Let go of the gun!" Pruitt yelled, figuring that the man had surely had enough.
Five .38 caliber bullets were now in Rish's side and abdomen—and still the ex-con fought, his strength seemingly
With his own burst of adrenaline, Pruitt jerked the Glock gun out of Rish's hand and dropped the spent .38 revolver on the driver's seat.
Desperate to put some distance between himself and his assailant, Pruitt leaned over and opened the driver's side door. But as he tried to get out, Rish seized his elbow and tried to pull him back inside. Now in control of the Glock, Pruitt inverted his arm, causing Rish to lose grip of his elbow. Before the man could knock the gun from his grasp, Pruitt shot him once in the chest.
Jumping out of the car, Pruitt turned around just in time to see Rish's eyes lock onto the .32 Kel-Tech on the floorboard.
Rish moved for it.
And Pruitt fired two more rounds from the Glock into the man's head.
Rish had succeeded in making good on one of his threats.
He would not be going back to jail.
Backup for Your Backup
Through the years, Pruitt had endured the requisite Travis Bickle jokes about carrying multiple guns. He sees it as simply a matter of having "backup for your backup." After the incident with Rish, the jokes have tapered off.
While he wishes he didn't have to take a man's life that day, Pruitt doesn't regret much about how things went down otherwise. Still, he searches for how things might have been done differently.
"I hadn't even seen Rish before," Pruitt explains. "I had no idea what he looked like. I didn't know that he had an 18-page rap sheet. I didn't know that he'd tried to kill a Greenville, S.C. deputy in 1996. If I'd known all this, would I have had somebody ride with me to the jail? Would I have had somebody follow me? I don't know. We could play the guessing game all day long. But it would have been nice to have known."
To this day he is amazed that Rish was able to disengage himself from the seatbelt without being detected. Today, he suspects that Rish's rant accomplished two things at once: keeping Pruitt distracted while he engineered his way out of the seatbelt and getting him to open the window.
Rish was apparently content to obtain his freedom at any cost. And the price he paid was dear.
And he wasn't the only one who suffered because of his actions.
Pruitt received death threats from Rish's relatives who accused him of shooting himself before executing their kinsman in front of all manner of civilian motorists who were somehow in their minds complicit for watching the fight as it played out in front of them.
The Rish incident also affected Pruitt's mindset. Having been shot and nearly killed, he felt as though he was marking time on this Earth and that he was apt to be killed at any moment. But in time, he came to his senses. And he was able to recover and find peace with the shooting, the aftermath, and most importantly with himself.
Pruitt was feted as a Top Cop, and met "America's Most Wanted" host John Walsh. He is thankful for the support he received from family, friends, co-workers, the State of South Carolina, the Lexington County Sheriff's Office, the Town of South Congaree, and Police Chief Jason Amodio.