LADSON, S.C. – Dozens of police officers and bloodhounds searched for a missing constable Tuesday after his empty cruiser was found in flames several miles from where he was last seen at a traffic stop, authorities said.
Charleston County Sheriff Al Cannon said authorities had identified a "person of interest" who was being sought on an unrelated weapons charge.
But he said officials don't know what happened to Robert Lee Bailey, a 66-year-old constable who works for the Lincolnville Police Department.
"It certainly does not look good. But we are hopeful. We have no explanation for what occurred," Cannon said. He said the shooting was not believed to be related to the traffic stop.
Bailey was last seen when he pulled a vehicle over about 10:30 p.m. Monday in Lincolnville. Witnesses reported hearing gunshots a few minutes later, and Bailey's cap, two guns, bullet casings and blood were found in a yard.
About an hour later, a Highway Patrol officer spotted Bailey's burning car in the parking lot of a church off Interstate 26.
Cannon said officials wanted to speak to a 24-year-old man wanted on a federal weapons charge. Walter Fayall, of St. Stephens, was being sought by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. No charges had been filed against him in the missing officer case.
Authorities also issued an alert for a black Chevrolet Caprice. Along highways near Lincolnville, a small town about 20 miles west of Charleston, electronic signs listed a fugitive alert.
Gary Tucker, data analyst for Faith Assembly of God Church, saw the charred remains of the cruiser early Tuesday. "I just noticed it was a police car and it was torched. And the back window was smashed out," he said.
The South Carolina Law Enforcement Division sent agents to help in the investigation, spokeswoman Kathryn Richardson said.
Constables assist law enforcement agencies and may carry firearms. They must complete a basic training course at a state technical college before they can be appointed by the governor.