Norman Allen “Bubba” Ernst tendered his resignation from Elgin Town Council Friday after being arrested Tuesday on criminal domestic violence charges. Elgin Mayor Brad Hanely said he received Ernst’s letter Friday afternoon. The Kershaw County Sheriff’s Office (KCSO) and the Elgin Police Department (EPD) charged Ernst with criminal domestic violence of a high and aggravated nature. The charges stem from a series of incidents that took place Saturday and Sunday both in and outside the town of Elgin.
This is the second time this year Ernst has been arrested. In late January, the KCSO charged him with malicious injury to personal property after he allegedly vandalized a gun range operated on a property he owns but leased to the operator.
In the days between Ernst’s arrest and resignation, Hanley said it would be hard for Ernst to be an effective representative for the people of Elgin. The mayor said council may hold an emergency session Tuesday, one week ahead of its regularly scheduled monthly meeting, to discuss Ernst’s arrest.
He said he hopes council will quickly determine the next appropriate course of action.
“We know it’s very hard on (Ernst’s) family,” Hanley said. “Although we are sympathetic to what has happened, at the same time we need to look out for council business and town business. We hope to see it resolved fairly quickly and then see what needs to be done. We are concerned for his family, him and the community.”
Ernst’s term was supposed to run through December 2015.
According to Kershaw County Sheriff Jim Matthews and Elgin Police Chief Harold Brown, Ernst’s wife filed a report concerning incidents that took place Saturday night and Sunday morning.
An EPD report alleged that Ernst assaulted his wife on Saturday by striking her in the head with a large flashlight and then assaulted her again Sunday. The report said Ernst’s wife went to a Columbia hospital for treatment.
The EPD contacted the KCSO after Ernst’s wife reported the incident, Brown said, after which county deputies also obtained a warrant for Ernst’s arrest. Ernst, an Elgin resident, was arrested in Charleston County by the Mt. Pleasant Police Department (MPPD).
“An officer saw his vehicle parked at a gas station and placed him under arrest from the outstanding warrant from the Kershaw Sheriff’s Office,” MPPD Capt. Amy McCarthy said.
Ernst was held for a time at the Charleston County detention center before being returned to Kershaw County.
“We knew that he knew we were looking for him. It is our assumption that he decided to get out of town,” Kershaw County Sheriff Jim Matthews said of Ernst’s arrest in Charleston.
The KCSO issued a state-wide “be-on-the-lookout,” or BOLO, notifying law enforcement of the warrant and that Ernst was believed to be carrying a weapon.
“We were concerned about what he might do if he were stopped … we knew that he left with a firearm in his car … we had to go in with the assumption that he might try to resist arrest” Matthews said.
MPPD officers found Ernst in possession of a pistol grip shotgun when they arrested him.
KCSO deputies searching his Elgin residence found a small quantity of marijuana, ammunition, a 30-30 rifle and a 12-gauge shotgun.
“He is a convicted felon so he was not supposed to have any weapons,” Matthews said.
Ernst pled guilty in 2003 to one count each of contributing to the delinquency of a minor and possession with intent to distribute cocaine. The charges stemmed from a 2001 case involving two teenage girls who were supplied liquor and alcohol before having their nude pictures posted on the Internet.
Matthews said the KCSO is looking into federal charges against Ernst for violating the gun statute. Matthews said the KCSO has contacted the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to assist with that side of the investigation.
In the meantime, the S.C. State Law Enforcement Division (SLED) will be investigating the assaults that took place inside of Elgin town limits.
“Because Mr. Ernst is an elected official, we turned the case over to SLED. SLED will be dealing with the case,” Brown said.
Ernst’s bond hearing was scheduled for Thursday afternoon.