The GBI is investigating Wednesday night’s deadly standoff at the Motel 8 that led to the death of a Barnwell County man.
Goldie Bellinger, 39, of Williston, was “shot at least one time by the SWAT Team” during the standoff, Coroner Mark Bowen said in a press release. Bellinger was pronounced dead at 12:25 a.m. Thursday.
The GBI has been called in to investigate the death, which is protocol for the sheriff’s office in these cases.
The Richmond County Sheriff’s Office is saying very little about the circumstances that led to the standoff. Around 10 p.m., they said they were called to the motel for a barricaded subject. At 12:18 a.m. Thursday, they issued this statement: “The standoff has ended. Richmond County Sheriff’s Deputies and Investigators are still on scene. This is an active investigation and no further details are available to be released at this time.”
Witnesses, however, say the suspect fired at officers multiple times. SWAT team members reportedly moved in with a “flash bang” and used a ram to knock the door down after a sniper shot two rounds through a window.
Bellinger has a history of violence. In 2016, he was arrested after an alleged altercation with two Aiken County deputies. A press release said the two deputies were called to help Williston’s police chief, Rodney Pruitt, who was being assaulted by Bellinger.
Bellinger had received a car ride from a woman from Williston to Aiken. On the way back to Williston, Bellinger became angry with the victim and “began to strike the victim and eventually held her at gunpoint” before forcing her to drive back to Aiken.
Pruitt received multiple reports of someone “pointing and presenting a firearm at multiple citizens” in Williston. Pruitt traveled west on Highway 78 in an attempt to locate the suspect. On their way back to Aiken, the couple struggled for control of the car and the vehicle ended up on the side of the highway. As police chief Pruitt approached the suspect, Bellinger left his car, approached Pruitt and began to assault him.
The two deputies arrived and were injured trying to apprehend the suspect. Both were treated to minor injuries.
A 2018 article in the Aiken Standard says Bellinger received a five-year sentence for the crime. It’s unclear when the suspect was released from prison.