Sheriff Ed Carroll confirmed that officers were called to Sweetwater Circle after shots were fired. .
John C. Pena, 26, of the 100 blockof Deer Run Road, Williston, died at Barnwell County Hospital Tuesday night, according to Chief Deputy Coroner Denise Cato. Pena was shot in the abdomen. His body is currently in Newberry undergoing autopsy, she said.
Carroll would not identify the other three persons shot.
“All three were taken to MCG (Medical College of Georgia Hospital in Augusta). Two are in stable condition, one has been released,” he said.
Cato said she had been informed that one was in critical condition.
“No other deaths have been reported at this time,” said Carroll. This was also confirmed by Cato.
The sheriff said one of the victims “was purely an innocent bystander.”
“He was just sitting in a friend’s yard when the shooting started,” said Carroll.
The incident started “shortly before 8 p.m. when two individuals got into an altercation – purely verbal,” said Carroll. “Each individual had a group with them. At some point, guns were produced and shots were fired. Something happened to cause members from both sides to start shooting.”
Carroll said, “Two…possibility three…weapons were involved.”
He said it was not a drive-by shooting but that one group of the two sides did arrive in a car while the others were on foot.
He said the investigation is “looking at people from both groups.”
He urged people with any information to call the Crime Stompers number at (803) 671-1688. “It is totally anonymous,” he said. They may also call the Barnwell County Sheriff’s Office at (803) 541-1078.
All the victims were initially taken to Barnwell County Hospital. Two were flown by MCG and the third was taken by ambulance.
The sheriff said he called in the South Carolina Law Enforcement Agency and the SC Department of Natural Resources to assist his deputies Tuesday night due to crowd control at the hospital and at Sweetwater Circle. “I have limited resources and we needed to put as many people on the ground as possible,” he said.
Not long after the shooting, officers also responded to a car chase near the intersection of Hwy. 278 and 300 "which may or may not be related," said Sheriff Carroll. He said the timing of the chase "was just too coincidental not to dispatch some assets" to the chase which involved people jumping from the car. He said, "We have the driver of that car in custody."
About 20 minutes after shooting the sister of one of the victims told The People-Sentinel her brother was shot in the knee. She said a family friend was shot in the stomach.
The victim's sister said she was across the street from 481 Sweetwater Circle when she heard the shots. She said her brother staggered toward her. "He said, 'They're shooting! They're shooting! They got me! They got John!',” she said.
She said she called 911.
Another woman, who asked not to be identified for fear of reprisal, said her daughter was nearby the scene and called home following the shooting. "I heard about six shots and then I heard people screaming," said the girl.
The mother said she also heard the shots from her home about a quarter mile from the scene. "I thought it was a pack of firecrackers going off. Then the phone rang."
Deputies and ambulances responded to the scene. Neighbors were advised to stay at home and lock their doors.
As dusk set in, deputies taped off the crime scene and began looking for evidence. The street was eventually blocked off from the public and the investigation went on into the night.
Around 9:30 p.m. the sheriff called for two dog tracking teams and a SLED surveillance helicopter to assist in the search.
More information will be provided as it becomes available.
Publisher Laura McKenzie and Staff Writer Susan Delk contributed to this report.