Police: Suspect killed in suicide by cop after shooting officer

Example of vest that blocked the bullet during the shooting.

COLUMBIA (WACH, AP) -- A Columbia police officer is recovering and the suspect dead after an early morning shooting in Columbia's Shandon neighborhood. Columbia Police Chief Randy Scott is calling it an incident of suicide by cop.

Columbia police say it all started around 5 a.m. Wednesday morning when two officers pulled over a sport utility vehicle for a routine traffic stop near the corner of King Street and Wilmot Street.

Police spokesman Brick Lewis tells WACH the officers were walking toward the SUV when someone inside fired a gun, hitting officer Alexander Broder in the protective vest. Broder, who had been on the streets with CPD for five days, was taken to the hospital and is expected to be okay. The suspect has been identified as 22-year-old Blakely Jernigan.

About an hour later officers spotted Jernigan at a home on the 2700 block of Blossom Street. Lewis said officers coaxed him out of the house and shot and killed him after he opened fire on them with an AK-47. Investigators say Broder was not shot with the AK-47 during the earlier incident.

At a briefing Wednesday morning, Chief Scott says Jernigan knew he was surrounded and came out shooting to commit suicide by cop. Details on Jernigan's history are limited at this time.

"The negotiators had spoken with him. They had a connection with him. They had given him direction on which door to exit from. When he came out he decided to take action in his own hands and began firing," Scott explains.

"I don't want to label him simply as someone who came out, pointed a gun and tried to have himself shot by police officers. These officers were actually responding to a live, ongoing threat," SLED Director Reggie Lloyd adds.

Chief Scott also says all patrolmen and investigators are required to wear their department issued bulletproof vests when on duty.

Another officer who has been with the department for two decades does not remember any other officers being shot in the time he has been there.

WACH Fox News talked to Kevin Lunday who lives across the street from where Jernigan came out of the house shooting. He says he heard sirens the earlier and just went back to sleep before waking up to officers telling him they had a suspect held up in a house.

"Shortly after that, about five minutes later, I heard a lot of gunshots," Lunday said. "I saw a gurney go that way. I didn't really see anything else after that."

Both Columbia police and the State Law Enforcement Division are investigating Wednesday morning's shooting.

The Columbia Police Department requires all of their officers to wear vests, but not every department in the Midlands can afford the life saving tools. One company is helping provide vests to those without. Click here to read more.

Under South Carolina law it's legal to posses a military style weapon, such as an AK-47, as long as it is a legally purchased semi-automatic gun.

What do you think about the state's gun laws? Do they need to be toughened or are these guns a Constitutional right that needs to be protected? Vote in our poll and leave a comment below to weigh in.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)