Man accused of shooting Charleston police officer out on bail on drug charges
From the start, it didn't look like an ordinary traffic stop as residents of a West Ashley Motel 6 saw police officers draw their handguns Saturday night.
It ended up with a police officer and a man who was out of jail on bond after being booked for drug charges both hospitalized with gunshot wounds.
Britany Simmions, 22, stood by the front door of her room at the motel on Savannah Highway and watched the ordeal unfold about 10:30 p.m.
The Charleston Police Department had the red sedan stopped on the ramp from southbound Savannah Highway to eastbound Interstate 526.
“The car came up on the ramp,” Simmions said. “We heard a screech, then the police had their guns drawn, and the guy started running. Then all you could hear were the shots.”
Simmions estimated that about 10 gunshots rang out. When it was over, a police officer and the fleeing motorist had been struck by multiple bullets.
Police identified the motorist as Mark L. Blake Jr., 26. He was arrested in February after a raid at his Jobee Drive apartment and charged with three counts of distribution of heroin, trafficking of heroin and cocaine possession.
He was released from the Charleston County jail on $55,000 bond.
The wounded officer was identified as Cory Goldstein, who has been with the Charleston police department since January 2012, police spokesman Charles Francis said.
Both men were in “stable” condition Saturday night, Police Chief Greg Mullen said at the crime scene.
Francis said the injured officer was alert and talking with friends and co-workers at Medical University Hospital.
Both remained in the hospital Sunday, Francis said.
The Saturday night crime scene stretched from the I-526 ramp southward about a quarter mile to Sam Rittenberg Boulevard, where police said the men were shot near a Comfort Suites hotel. Investigators cordoned off the area and diverted southbound traffic on Savannah Highway through the overnight hours.
Police have not said why officers first stopped Blake. The State Law Enforcement Division is handling the investigation.
Simmions and other Motel 6 guests had prime spots from which to view the initial encounter.
The red car, a Hyundai with a North Carolina license plate, stopped on the ramp, and Blake quickly hopped a guardrail and ran down an embankment, then under the I-526 overpass, Simmions said.
“It happened so quick,” she said. “All you saw is the police officer walking up to the car, trying to stop the guy. He got out and just started running.”
It's unknown when the shooting started, but from her doorstep, Simmions saw the flashes from the weapons' muzzles and heard bullets ricocheting.
With officers in pursuit, Blake ran across the western terminus of I-526 and toward a parking lot behind the Comfort Suites.
During a brief statement to reporters, Mullen didn't go into detail about the shooting, and he declined to answer questions.
“At the end of the foot pursuit, the suspect turned on the officer with a handgun,” Mullen said. “Shots were fired. Both the officer and the suspect were shot multiple times.”
It wasn't clear whether officer Goldstein was the one who shot Blake.
Witnesses recalled watching one ambulance speed away from the scene with four police cruisers following closely, sirens blaring. Another ambulance got an escort from a single patrol car.
Officers stretched yellow crime tape behind Blake's car and several police cruisers. Down the road, a single unmarked police car stopped on Sam Rittenberg Boulevard had also been cordoned off.
Investigators marked evidence in the road and tried to spot more with flashlights as they strolled across a sidewalk near the Comfort Suites. Other officers directed traffic while some drank coffee being offered at a mobile command center across the street.
Dave Munday contributed to this story.