The Richland County Sheriff said recent gang-related shootings that led to the deaths of innocent bystanders by stray bullets are a “community problem,” not a law enforcement problem.
“It starts at home and it just goes through all of us,” said Sheriff Leon Lott. “That’s why it’s a community problem. People want to say it’s a law enforcement problem. It’s not. It’s a community problem when you get to where we’re at now and the number that we have and the amount of guns that we have on the street. But it’s not having a conscience and not caring.”
Lott expressed his frustration at a news conference Monday announcing the arrest of three teens in connection with the death of 58-year-old Ronald Bonette of Columbia. The father of 16 was shot and killed as he was taking out his trash on October 26 on Beatty Road. Lott said Bonette’s funeral was Monday, the same day as the news conference.
Lott said members of two rival gangs were shooting at each other recklessly and Bonette got caught in the crossfire. In August, a woman was killed by a stray bullet fired from what he said was gang-related gunfire as she sat in her apartment. The bullet pierced her apartment wall and killed her.
Dy’Quan Monroe King,17, is charged with murder, possession of a weapon during a violent crime, unlawful carrying of a pistol and discharging firearms into a dwelling. Elijah Karim Gilmore, 19, is charged with murder, possession of a weapon during a violent crime, and Messiah Denicholas Cornish, 18, is charged with murder, possession of a firearm during a violent crime and discharging a firearm into a dwelling.
“Parents need to get involved,” Lott said. “We need to teach our kids at an early age about gang activity and violence. Schools need to be involved. Churches need to be involved. But it starts in the home.”
Lott said 25 shots were fired in the incident. Three cars were damaged by bullets and two occupied apartments were pierced by bullets.
“We’ve got too many young people out here with guns who just do not care,” he said. “Do not care about anybody’s life. They don’t care what happens when they start shooting these guns.”
Lott said many of the handguns used in these crimes are stolen from unlocked vehicles. He also said it’s the community’s responsibility to secure its guns.