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Spartanburg Herald-Journal

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Article Published: Saturday, June 16, 2007

Suspect in custody after standoff

By RACHEL E. LEONARD
rachel.leonard@shj.com

JOHN BYRUM/STAFF
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Spartanburg County Sheriff's Deputies block the access on Wilkins Road where a standoff occured after a man took a couple of shots at some fishermen on Lake Bowen

INMAN - A Lake Bowen man accused of shooting at two fishermen with an AK-47 assault rifle was taken into custody late Friday after holding a Spartanburg County SWAT team at bay for 11 hours.

Jeffery Sims Gray, 44, was arrested at 9:50 p.m. after officers shocked him with a Taser when he came to a window of his home, 201 Kaplan Koru Place, said Maj. Dan Johnson with the Spartanburg County Sheriff's Office. Gray was taken to Spartanburg Regional Medical Center to be evaluated prior to transport to the county jail, and no officers were injured.

Gray is charged with two counts of assault with intent to kill and will likely face more charges in connection with the standoff, Johnson said. He praised officers who used restraint in dealing with a "highly volatile situation."

"They had to physically take him down because he was just very belligerent, threatening what he was going to do," Johnson said.

SWAT officers, who communicated with Gray via telephone, also used robots with cameras and spread gas throughout the house before learning Gray had a gas mask. At one point, Johnson said, Gray fired at least two shots inside the home.

The standoff began shortly before 11 a.m. after the fishermen, ages 56 and 86, reported a man wearing camouflage and black boots fired at them from across the lake.

"Apparently he was standing on a boat ramp on this side here, hollering at them, threatening them, telling them not to dock their boats," Johnson said. Neither fisherman was hit.

Gray refused to surrender to deputies who came to his home, on a dirt road off Wilkins Road that leads to a cove just west of the Highway 9 bridge. Deputies spoke with Gray's father, who said his son had a problem with alcohol and drugs and that he was dangerous to everyone, Johnson said.

Officers blocked access to part of Wilkins Road and to Chapman Drive, a short road on the other side of the cove near where the standoff occurred. Deputies warned residents to remain inside their homes, and state and local officials shut down part of Lake Bowen to the public.

Wilkins Road resident Conor Gillespie, 15, said the disturbance began early Friday.

"He was yelling this morning, off his dock, for everyone to wake up and smell the coffee," the teenager said. "My neighbors heard it. Everybody heard it. We thought it was funny."

It wasn't funny Friday afternoon, as the standoff continued and Gillespie and his friends weren't allowed to return home.

Wilkins Road resident Mary Ann Green was frustrated as officers refused to let her go home Friday, but she said she understood the need for the public's safety.

"He's been known to shoot into the water with a gun," Green said of Gray, adding she never thought he would fire a weapon at a person.

Johnson said Gray was arrested in 2003 and charged with discharging weapon under influence of alcohol and unlawful possession of a weapon.

"This behavior is not unusual at all for him," he said.