BY TED CLIFFORD
Four teens have been charged in last month’s shooting of a Richland County sheriff’s deputy and his fiance at a family gathering on Aug. 20, Sheriff Leon Lott announced at a news conference Friday afternoon.
The gang-related shooting targeted someone else in the house, Lott said.
All four suspects have been charged with eight counts of attempted murder and possessing a weapon during a violent crime. The suspects are Shawn Ledinerio Wise, 18; RayShaun S. Lair, 17; Damarrious M. Rodgers, 17; and Emmaurie L. Shorten, 17.
It was the 96th walk-up or drive-by shooting this year, Lott said.
“This is the number one concern of most people in the Columbia area is the violence, the shootings,” Lott said. “I get asked all the time, what are the three top problems we’ve got? Kids with guns, kids with guns, kids with guns.”
Cpl. Terrence CrawfordCpl. Terrence Crawford was identified as the Richland County sheriff’s deputy who was recently shot.
The sheriff’s deputy, Cpl. Terrance Crawford, was was shot while hosting a family gathering at his home on Crusader Court, according to the sheriff’s department. That’s in Elgin, in the area between Two Notch Road and Clemson Road.
At a press conference following the shooting, Lott said that the nine-year veteran of the sheriff’s department and his fiance had gone inside after noticing three “suspicious” men in the area.
Shots then rang out in the neighborhood. Bullets entered the home, striking Crawford and his fiance. They were not the intended targets of the shooting, which Lott described as gang-related.
In his press conference following the shooting, Lott promised a significant response to gang violence following the shooting. On Friday, the sheriff announced that he had made good on his promise.
During days following the shooting, the sheriff’s department executed six search warrants, arrested a total of six suspects and seized six weapons, one of which, a handgun, was a ballistic match for a weapon used in the shooting.
Referencing the recent passage of Hurricane Idalia, Lott said, “there’s another hurricane going on and its a category five. It’s a hurricane against these gangs we’ve got out here and it’s not going to slow down until we see a difference in this community.”
Lott characterized the gang violence as a resurgent problem, reminiscent of the early 2000s when Columbia was struck by a number of high profile killings related to a feud between the Crips and the Bloods gangs. In one incident, University of North Carolina football player Carl Smalls, who was raised in South Carolina, was shot and killed in a Columbia nightclub by Jeriod Price, a high ranking Bloods gang member.
Gun violence is seen as increasingly random, said Perry Bradley, Jr., the director of Building Better Communities, an organization that aims to reduce violence in the Midlands. “Back in the day, gangs had more discipline. What we’re seeing now is something totally new.”
But Bradley agreed with Lott’s assessment that solutions for the wave of gun violence would be found in the communities that are most impacted, which he said are stepping up to tackle the problem.
“We have to figure out conflict resolution,” Bradley said. “You have to have these community meetings and we have to hold lawmakers accountable.”
In his remarks, the sheriff said that one gang had “sent word” to the sheriff’s department that “if we hurt one them they’re going to hurt two of us,” Lott said.
“It don’t work that way in Richland County,” Lott said. “We’re not the ones that’s going to be looking over our shoulder and worrying if someone is going to blow our door down at four o’clock in the morning and put somebody in jail. That’s what we’re going to do.”