An internal sheriff's office investigation has determined that a Beaufort County sheriff's deputy is cleared after shooting and killing a Hardeeville man. Dep. Tom Junkin was justified in using deadly force in a December 20 incident. The sheriff, along with the solicitor, determined Junkin was within his rights for shooting William Simmons.
The two had fought in a water-filled ditch in Jasper County after Simmons went on a two-county crime spree. Deputies say Simmons carjacked a person staying at the Sleep Inn in Hardeeville then attempted to rob a woman at gunpoint in a Bluffton parking lot.
After a high-speed chase, a fight broke out between Simmons and Dep. Junkin. As the two struggled, Simmons stuck Junkin with a gun. Junkin shot Simmons once, killing him. Dep. Junkin sustained injuries to his face and head.
Tonight, the Bluffton woman Simmons attempted to rob at gunpoint in Bluffton is speaking out. That night, Jennifer Ayres did everything we're all told to do. She had her keys in hand before she walked out of the store and she scanned the parking lot, but she had no idea that the next few minutes would be the most terrifying experience of her life.
"When I close my eyes at night, that's what I see, is his face," Ayres told us. "And that gun."
The nightmare just won't go away for Ayres. "I was putting my packages in the back of my car. When I closed the hatch to the SUV, a car pulled up behind me and quickly a man got out."
Ayres says Simmons told her the car next to hers was his friend's and it wouldn't start.
"He walked back to his vehicle," she recalled. "So I was walking back to my driver's door. When I turned to open my door, he was right there with a gun. He told me to give him all my money. And I screamed. He looked at me and said, 'If you scream again, I will shoot you.'"
And with a gun pointed at her chest, Ayres says she decided not to fight back and tried to stay calm. But when she told him she was scared, Simmons' demeanor changed.
"I've gone though this a hundred times or more in my head," said Ayres. "And I think it touched some human side of him that made him turn around from what he was doing."
And when she said she had no money, he took off.
Just minutes after Ayres went back inside the store to call 911, deputies spotted Simmons on Highway 278 in Bluffton and that's when the high-speed chase into Jasper County began.
It ended on a dirt road, where Simmons tried to run after his tire blew. Simmons fought Dep. Junkin while he was trying to arrest him and that's when Junkin fired, killing Simmons.
Just knowing all that happened, Ayres says she's just thankful she's alive. "I absolutely think about what could have happened," she said. "There isn't a day that goes by that I don't thank God I'm still here to raise my kids and be with my husband."
Ayres tells us she's trying to get life back to normal, but she still can't face going anywhere at night by herself yet. She says although it's been a terrifying experience, she wanted to share her story today because she wants people to be aware of what can happen and for everyone to be vigilant.
Reported by: Jaime Dailey, email@example.com
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