updated 8/6/2008 8:46:15 PM ET 2008-08-07T00:46:15

A South Carolina sheriff's deputy was shot to death while responding to an early morning home alarm Wednesday, and authorities said they were seeking several people of interest after scouring the area.

Colleton County Sheriff George Malone declined to offer specifics about the people being sought in the slaying of Deputy Dennis Compton. No arrests had been made by Wednesday night.

"We have a couple people of interest we are searching for at this time," Malone said at the end of a day in which authorities searched with bloodhounds and a police helicopter.

Compton's body was found at about 3 a.m. by the son of the owners of the home, which was empty at the time. Compton, 39, had gone to the house after an alarm there went off. A few minutes later, the homeowners' son — called to the home by the alarm company — used the slain officer's radio to report Compton had been shot, said Sheriff George Malone.

Malone said it was unclear whether Compton fired his own weapon.

Authorities set up roadblocks in and around Smoaks, a town just west of Interstate 95, about 70 miles northwest of Charleston.

"If there's a way, God willing, we'll find him," Malone said during a morning news conference in a neighborhood of small ranch homes near where the deputy died.

Compton, a married father, had worked for the sheriff's office for two years — first as a jailer and for the past 16 months as a deputy, Malone said.

"Deputy Compton was an honorable man, he was a family man," said Malone, who called the deputy "one of the best officers I had."

'Right will prevail'
Compton's cousin, who serves on the county SWAT team, said Compton grew up wanting to work in law enforcement and usually asked for extra assignments. "He couldn't wait to get into that patrol car," said Cpl. Anthony Buchanan, 40.

Buchanan said he was upset, not angry, at the person who killed his cousin, who had two children and two stepchildren.

"We carry guns for a living and this is a wicked world," Buchanan said. "Right will prevail. If they don't get caught now, they will get caught."

Neighbor Virginia Padgett, 66, said the woman who owns the house stays elsewhere several nights a week to care for elderly people. She said she was awakened by police responding to the shooting.

"Normally we never hear that many sirens in such a little town," said Padgett.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Discuss:

Discussion comments

,

Most active discussions

  1. votes comments
  2. votes comments
  3. votes comments
  4. votes comments