Escaped convict caught in Lexington after allegedly stabbing Columbia police officer
“God is so good!”
That was the exclamation Thursday from Scott Crede, headmaster at Northside Christian Academy in Lexington.
Crede had good reason to give praise. Just hours before, Lexington Police apprehended a desperate, dangerous, and cornered prison escapee who tried to break into the facility during school hours just a day after he allegedly stabbed a Columbia Police officer inside a Walmart on Bush River Road.
The school of more than 400 students located at 4347 Sunset Blvd. had its doors locked, just as many schools in Lexington and Richland counties did as a law enforcement manhunt ensued for 47-year-old suspect Michael Alan Williamson.
“I am so proud of every one of our teachers, staff, and students,” Crede said. “The Lord secured us in this place while the Lexington Police did an outstanding job of apprehending the individual that was wanted. At no time were we or any of our students in danger.
“We rejoice in the Lord’s protection,” he added. “We rejoice in the apprehension of the individual. We pray that he comes to know Jesus Christ…. We take seriously the safety of your children while they are in our care. While the teachers and staff executed the plan flawlessly, we give all the glory to God.”
After a crazy night in Columbia, though, even God couldn’t save Williamson from the long arm of the law.
Williamson, serving a life sentence for armed robbery, had escaped Wednesday from the McCormick Correctional Institution in McCormick County and headed for Columbia, officials said. Preliminary indications were that he hopped aboard a food truck to make his escape, the first at the prison in nearly 30 years.
He wound up at the Walmart on Bush River Road, where a female Columbia police officer – Ashley Hardesty, a rookie who joined the force last year – confronted him after it appeared he was trying to shoplift.
While she detained him and investigated, Williamson reportedly erupted and stabbed her at least twice in her left arm and shoulder, Columbia Police Chief Skip Holbrook said. The suspect then fled, leaving behind a bleeding officer and spurring a multi-agency manhunt that ended Thursday morning with his apprehension by Lexington Police outside the Christian school.
According to Lexington Police, here’s how it went down:
Around 10:20 a.m. Thursday, a parent told a School Resource Officer at Meadow Glen Middle School she had seen a suspicious male dressed in black with a mask covering his face walking on Ginny Lane. The School Resource Officer notified officers who responded to the area to check it out.
An officer traveling on Northside Drive near Ginny Lane observed a masked man walking and contacted him in the roadway. The officer asked him to remove the black mask from his face and he did so, police said. The officer then recognized the man as Williamson.
According to police, Williamson then fled into a nearby wood line with the officer chasing on foot. Williamson then ran from the woods into the parking lot of Northside Christian Academy where he tried to get into an empty school bus.
When he could not get into the bus, he then ran to an unlocked vehicle nearby, got inside, where he stayed for a short time, police said. As the officer approached, Williamson then fled from the vehicle towards the school’s entrance.
With the school doors locked and Williamson unable to gain entry, he eventually sat down and gave up without further incident.
“I am pleased that our officers were able to arrest this dangerous felon and bring to a close the extensive search that had been going on since last night,” Lexington Police Chief Terrence Green said Thursday evening.
“For our citizens, this also highlights the importance that when you see someone or something that just doesn’t look right, please call the police,” Green added. “Like in today’s arrest, it can make all the difference.”
Columbia Police Chief Holbrook said via Twitter he was grateful for the help of local law enforcement agencies that assisted with the search.
“They didn’t hesitate,” he said.
The Columbia Police Department received help from officers in Richland and Lexington counties, including K9 officers, as well as agents from the State Law Enforcement Division, which also lent a helicopter in the search effort.
Meantime, Hardesty was treated for her injuries and released from a local hospital and is now recuperating at home.
Holbrook praised his 26-year-old officer and indicated it shouldn’t be too long before she returns to action.
“She demonstrated so much courage yesterday,” he said. “She’s ready to get right back in the fight.”
Stay tuned to Cola Daily for story updates.