Ac­cused cop-killer’s home roiled by drugs, fam­ily feuds

The Sun News (Sunday) - - Front Page - BY DAVID TRAVIS BLAND tb­[email protected]­tate.com

When Florence po­lice ar­rived at Fred­er­ick Hop­kins Jr.’s home on Oct. 3 and walked into a deadly am­bush, it wasn’t their first trip to the up­scale brick home in the quiet Vin­tage Place neigh­bor­hood.

Be­tween 2009 and 2018, po­lice wrote more than 25 re­ports as­so­ci­ated with the ad­dress, ac­cord­ing to re­ports from the Florence County Sher­iff’s Of­fice.

The re­ports pro­vide a look in­side a house­hold in tur­moil where Fred Hop­kins, 74, and his wife, Ch­eryl Hop­kins, headed a large fam­ily — eight chil­dren are men­tioned in the re­ports, some of whom are said to be adopted. The cou­ple rou­tinely called po­lice to track down stolen guns and cor­ral out-of-con­trol teenage chil­dren who they ac­cused of theft, drug use and tru­ancy. Other re­ports show Fred Hop­kins, who told of­fi­cers he had ad­vanced can­cer in 2014, also be­hav­ing vi­o­lently.

On Oct. 3, po­lice ar­rived at the home once again. This time, they were there to in­ves­ti­gate the most se­ri­ous ac­cu­sa­tion re­ceived to date.

One of the Hop­kins’ adult daugh­ters had re­cently con­tact- ed the Florence County Sher­iff’s Of­fice af­ter her pre-teen sis­ter had con­fessed a ter­ri­ble se­cret. Their brother, Seth Hop­kins, 28, had been in­ap­pro­pri­ately touch­ing the girl for the past three years, ac­cord­ing to a po­lice re­port.

The abuse was a pat­tern of be­hav­ior, the older sis­ter ex­plained to of­fi­cers, in­clud­ing Florence County Deputy Far­rah Turner, a for­mer school re­source of­fi­cer who was now work­ing as an in­ves­ti­ga­tor of crimes against chil­dren.

The older sis­ter re­counted to of­fi­cers that “she had the same prob­lem in the past with Seth” when she was younger and she did not want her lit­tle sis­ter to suf­fer through the same trauma.

It was with this in­for­ma­tion in mind that Turner, 36, stepped out of a pa­trol car Oct. 3 at the Hop­kins’ home, bent on in­ter­view­ing older brother, Seth Hop­kins, and search­ing the fam­ily home for ev­i­dence.

Un­known to her and the other of­fi­cers, the el­der Hop­kins was ly­ing in wait in­side the home. A dis­abled Viet­nam War marks­man, he was armed with a high­power ri­fle and two pis­tols, ac­cord­ing to po­lice ac­counts of the crime.

Be­fore Turner and the of­fi­cers could reach the door, shots rang out as Fred Hop­kins opened fire from a sec­ond-story win­dow, say po­lice. Dur­ing the next two hours, more than 400 shots

would fly be­tween Hop­kins and the of­fi­cers. Two of­fi­cers, Turner and Ter­rence Car­raway, would be fa­tally shot by Hop­kins, and five other of­fi­cers in­jured, ac­cord­ing to po­lice ac­counts.

FA­THER, SONS AND FIREARMS

The Oct. 3 shoot­ing was not the first in­di­ca­tion of Fred Hop­kins’ vi­o­lent ten­den­cies.

Ex­actly five years ear­lier on Oct. 3, 2013, a Florence County worker drove to the Hop­kins’ home to check on a re­ported or­di­nance vi­o­la­tion. The re­port does not spec­ify the type of vi­o­la­tion.

Fred Hop­kins stopped the worker in the drive­way. Be­com­ing “an­gry and hos­tile,” he grabbed the worker, “flipped (him) over onto his back” and jerked a cam­era off his wrist, ac­cord­ing to a po­lice re­port.

Fred Hop­kins then handed the cam­era to his son, Seth, in­struct­ing him to go in­side and delete the pic­tures. Seth com­plied, the po­lice re­port said.

The worker re­ported the at­tack to Florence County Sher­iff’s in­ves­ti­ga­tor Sarah Miller. And Fred Hop­kins was charged with as­sault and bat­tery. Miller would be one of the of­fi­cers in­jured dur­ing the Oct. 3 am­bush.

Po­lice also knew that Hop­kins kept a large num­ber of guns in the home. They got a look at his per­sonal arse­nal on April 23, 2010, when he called to re­port a bur­glary at the house, ac­cord­ing to a Florence County Sher­iff’s Of­fice re­port.

Thirty guns were miss­ing, worth $43,100 Fred Hop­kins said, in­clud­ing mul­ti­ple hand­guns, a World War II M1 ri­fle and a Bush­mas­ter XM15 as­sault ri­fle, a type of firearm used in some mass shoot­ings of re­cent years.

Sev­eral years later in 2018, more guns were stolen from the home. This time, it was “sev­eral an­tique firearms” taken by a teenage son in the Hop­kins fam­ily, ac­cord­ing to a po­lice doc­u­ment that does not name the son.

The an­tiques rep­re­sented only a small por­tion of Fred Hop­kins’ col­lec­tion. Af­ter the Oct. 3 fa­tal shoot­ing, the FBI seized an­other 126 guns from the home, amaz­ing law en­force­ment of­fi­cials that more of­fi­cers were not in­jured.

Fred Hop­kins was a se­ri­ous gun col­lec­tor, ac­cord­ing to fam­ily friends who have spo­ken with The State, who bragged on­line about his marks­man­ship.

In one Face­book post, he poses with an M-14 ri­fle, “set up ex­actly like the one I used in Viet­nam in 69-70,” he wrote. And to cel­e­brate his 70th birth­day, he posted about “shoot­ing com­pet­i­tively since 1984 and lovin’ it,” the AP re­ported.

On one oc­ca­sion, he threat­ened gun vi­o­lence against one of his chil­dren, ac­cord­ing to a po­lice re­port.

Fred Hop­kins heard some­one try­ing to break into his home and called po­lice, ac­cord­ing to a May 20, 2013, re­port.

When the au­thor­i­ties ar­rived, Hop­kins said his son, Kyle Hop­kins, was the cul­prit, shat­ter­ing the front door be­fore break­ing a kitchen win­dow in an at­tempt to get in­side.

When the po­lice caught up with Kyle, 18, he said he’d been kicked out of the home a month prior and that he wanted to get some be­long­ings. But his fa­ther re­fused his en­try.

“Mr. (Fred) Hop­kins told him he would shoot him if he came into the res­i­dence,” the po­lice re­port reads.

FAM­ILY FIRST

Threats, drug use and phys­i­cal vi­o­lence ap­pear of­ten in the po­lice nar­ra­tives. Those crimes of­ten be­gin with son, Kyle Hop­kins, who phys­i­cally as­saulted his mother, sis­ter and a brother, ac­cord­ing to a 2013 po­lice re­port and threat­ened to “kill the whole fam­ily.”

The fol­low­ing year, Kyle was at the cen­ter of an­other fight in the home.

That’s when the el­der Hop­kins called po­lice be­cause Kyle, who had moved out, came into the fam­ily’s house and took a bot­tle of pills, ac­cord­ing to a re­port.

Kyle “is known to have a drug prob­lem,” Fred Hop­kins told po­lice.

When the fa­ther at­tempted to see if Kyle was steal­ing his pre­scrip­tion drugs, the son punched him in the face and chest. The two then fought on the ground, ac­cord­ing to the re­port.

Seth Hop­kins pulled his brother off his fa­ther. Kyle was ar­rested for as­sault and bat­tery af­ter Seth cor­rob­o­rated Fred Hop­kins’ ver­sion of the story.

More blows would fly just two months later.

That’s when Kyle, then 19, as­saulted his 13-yearold sis­ter, grab­bing her by the hair and punch­ing her in the face af­ter his mother ques­tioned him about steal­ing her pre­scrip­tion pills, ac­cord­ing to a 2014 re­port.

Kyle, now 23, is serv­ing a 10-year prison sen­tence af­ter a 2016 bur­glary, court records show. Tat­tooed across his chest are the names of his eight brothers and sis­ters and his par­ents. “Fam­ily First” reads a ban­ner above the names.

Fam­ily prob­lems ex­tended be­yond Kyle Hop­kins, ac­cord­ing to the re­ports:

In 2017, one of the

Hop­kins’ sons forced his sis­ter into his ve­hi­cle and drove to a dirt road in a neigh­bor­ing county. He then re­port­edly beat her in the head. “You know you should have killed me, right?” the sis­ter asked her brother, ac­cord­ing to her state­ment to po­lice. “You’re right,” he re­sponded, leav­ing her “in the mid­dle of nowhere,” ac­cord­ing to the po­lice of­fi­cer who found her. She was taken to a hos­pi­tal.

Other teenage sons in ● the Hop­kins fam­ily were re­ported by their par­ents for steal­ing money and pre­scrip­tion pills and were said to be us­ing drugs. An­other was con­stantly run­ning away and caus­ing “the fam­ily a lot of prob­lems,” a re­port said. Fred Hop­kins told po­lice “they were tired of (the teenage son) not go­ing to school and smok­ing mar­i­juana.”

The Hop­kins’ par­ents con­tacted the S.C. Depart­ment of Ju­ve­nile Jus­tice about their teenage sons. And in a 2018 re­port, af­ter a teen son was said to have taken items from the house and sold them, Fred Hop­kins told an of­fi­cer he wanted the son ar­rested.

Po­lice who were in­jured in the am­bush were fa­mil­iar with the fam­ily’s prob­lem sons.

One of the of­fi­cers in­volved with the case that sent Kyle to prison was Robert “Ben” Price, ac­cord­ing to court records. Price would be on the scene Oct. 3 when Kyle’s fa­ther is al­leged to have opened fire on other of­fi­cers.

And four years be­fore, when Kyle was charged for tres­pass­ing and dis­or­derly con­duct, it was Deputy Far­rah Turner who ar­rested him, court records show. Turner died from wounds sus­tained dur­ing the Oct. 3 gun fight.

FI­NAL RE­PORTS

Both Fred and Seth Hop­kins now sit in Columbia prison cells, await­ing trial in cases that have re­ceived na­tional me­dia at­ten­tion.

The el­der Hop­kins is charged with two counts of mur­der in the deaths of Turner and Car­raway and five counts of at­tempted mur­der in con­nec­tion with other wounded of­fi­cers. And Seth Hop­kins is charged with two counts of crim­i­nal sex­ual con­duct, one deal­ing with a mi­nor age 11 to 14 and an­other for a mi­nor un­der 11 years old.

Florence po­lice have likely made their fi­nal visit to the trou­bled Hop­kins’ home, now boarded up.

In the fi­nal po­lice re­port, Florence Sher­iff’s Deputy Chad Collins wrote that he drove to the hos­pi­tal af­ter learn­ing of the am­bush.

“I was made aware that the in­ci­dent had in­volved the res­i­dence lo­ca­tion of 932 Ash­ton Drive ...” Collins wrote, seem­ing to im­ply the ad­dress was well-known to of­fi­cers.

The re­main­der of Collins’ re­port is three redacted pages of what he saw at the med­i­cal cen­ter.

“No fur­ther ac­tion by this deputy,” the re­port ends.

PHO­TOS BY JA­SON LEE [email protected]­sun­news.com

Law en­force­ment from many agencies clog Ash­ton Drive in Florence where the Hop­kins fam­ily house is lo­cated.

Seth David Hop­kins, 28, ap­pears for a bond hear­ing Oct. 5. He is charged with crim­i­nal sex­ual con­duct with a mi­nor, sec­ond de­gree.

Fred­er­ick Hop­kins

TERESA GALASSO Pro­vided to The State

Fol­low­ing the shoot­ing, the Hop­kins house in Florence was boarded up.

Kyle Hop­kins

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