Police now think that a fight between rival gangs preceded Sunday's fatal shooting outside an Augusta nightclub and that a deputy could have been the target.
Investigators said they think Denzel Laquan Ward, 16, fired the shot that killed 24-year-old Nicholas Martel Carpenter. Mr. Carpenter was standing outside Club Platinum on North Leg Road a little before 2 a.m. when Mr. Ward leaned out of the window of a gray Pontiac Vibe and fired a semiautomatic handgun - striking the victim in the stomach, Richmond County Homicide Investigator Steve Fanning said.
Mr. Ward was charged with murder. Kwamane Coleman, 17, has been detained by police and is thought to have been inside the vehicle at the time of the shooting.
A third person, whom police have only identified by the nickname "KO," also is thought to have been riding in the car.
Little is known about what sparked the fight between the Barton Village-based O-Dub gang and the Old Savannah Boys, who hail from the Dogwood Terrace housing project on 15th Avenue, Investigator Fanning said. He said that although the fight is believed to be gang-related, there is no evidence that either Mr. Ward or the victim was affiliated with any local gangs, although both Mr. Ward and Mr. Coleman are known to frequent what is considered Old Savannah Boys territory.
"I don't think the actual shooting was gang-related," he said. "I haven't been able to determine whether the victim was related to any gangs, and I can't find anything that shows that the shooter knew the victim."
What is known is that a large group of men began to spill into the parking lot as Deputy Seth Giddens, who was working a special assignment at the club, began to break up the fight. The deputy was standing only a few feet from Mr. Carpenter when the shot was fired, which has Investigator Fanning wondering whether the bullet found the target the shooter initially had in mind.
"We don't know if this guy was trying to make a statement to the deputy or what," he said. "It looks as though the victim was an innocent bystander."
He said the lack of a relationship between the shooter and the victim only adds to the theory.
As the car sped from the scene, a deputy parked on Wrightsboro Road chased it. The occupants pulled into the Georgian Place Apartments, jumped from the car and escaped on foot. A search of their vehicle turned up blood and at least one shell casing that matched others found at the scene.
Investigator Fanning said the vehicle's license plate information showed that it was registered to a family member of Mr. Ward. Mr. Coleman turned himself in to authorities Sunday night after hearing on TV that he was wanted for questioning.
Police are asking anyone with information about the case to call (706) 821-1080.
Reach Adam Folk at (706) 823-3339 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
O-DUB: With more than 100 members, O-Dub is considered Augusta's largest gang. Its base is the Barton Village neighborhood in south Augusta. It also is known by the acronym OWTT, which stands for Only With True Thugs.
OLD SAVANNAH BOYS: Also called the Southside Posse, this gang originated in the area of the Dogwood Terrace housing projects on 15th Avenue. Its territory is within the area of Old Savannah Road, Olive Road and Martin Luther King Boulevard.