She said it’s not worth it to be angry.
“People don’t survive this, some people don’t survive this and I survived. I feel lucky to be alive and I am happy to be here.”
But her state legislator, Greenville Rep. Phyllis Henderson, is angry and she pre-filed bill H.4368 for the upcoming session to crack down on gang prosecutions.
“It just really made me angry, because not only she was hurt but, a few months earlier than that, this young mother was shot and killed while she was working at a bakery down there. All of these things had happened since we (the Legislature) left Columbia,” Henderson told South Carolina Radio Network.
Both cases are connected with gang membership, according to local law enforcement.
Henderson said she is worried. ”I have a daughter who is a sophomore at USC, lives on campus and she walks all over the place,” said Henderson, “and for my own self when we are in session when we go places at night.”
Henderson said she immediately asked for help from state Senate staffers, the State Law Enforcement Division and the SC Sheriff’s Association to draft changes in the state’s Criminal Gang Prevention Act.
Legal punishment for gang members would be harsher in her proposal, which sets up new definitions and tougher penalties and bonding for proven organized crime activities. Her bill also calls for the passage of H. 3051, which was introduced earlier this year by Rep. Chip Limehouse. Among other things, it revokes bond if a defendant commits a new violent crime while awaiting a trial or hearing.
The challenge, she said, is proving that a crime was gang related.
“Law enforcement could say that they observed it, they know the signs, they know what they wear and know it was gang related because they are professionals,” Henderson said, “but when you get into a courtroom it is very difficult to prove that. And that’s, from what I am understanding, one of the biggest problems.”
Henderson is not daunted by that, nor is she stopping with legislation. She has been is gathering a group of legislators to speak out against upcoming re-appointment of Circuit Court Judge Alison Lee, who lowered the bond in a previous violent crime committed by one of the men accused of killing Hunnewell. She is also talking to U.S. Senators Lindsey Graham and Tim Scott about fighting Lee’s possible nomination to a federal court.
“We just can’t keep putting judges on the bench who will keep letting people out of jail,” Henderson said.