It was an especially violent weekend in South Carolina as a pair of officer-involved shootings left two people dead and a pair of shootings in Newberry County left four teenagers dead.
One law enforcement source told me the rash of violence “just scratches the surface of what is going on” – highlighting a troubling epidemic of violent crime in the Palmetto State that state leaders seem unwilling to confront.
In Aiken County, S.C., 58-year-old Arthur C. Page II of Aiken was shot and killed following a pursuit involving deputies of the Aiken County sheriff’s office. Deputies attempted to initiate a traffic stop of Page at approximately 12:53 a.m. EDT on Saturday morning.
According to a sheriff’s release, Page sped away from them on a Harley-Davidson motorcycle as they activated their blue lights. As the pursuit moved onto Interstate 20 in Aiken County, Page lost control of the motorcycle he was riding while attempting to navigate a grassy shoulder.
“As the deputy confronted the motorcycle rider shots were fired and the motorcycle rider sustained at least one gunshot wound to the body,” the released noted.
Approximately seven hours later, there was another officer-involved shooting – this one involving deputies of the Laurens County sheriff’s office. That shooting resulted in the death of 26-year-old Kalah Shannon Gary.
Agents of the S.C. State Law Enforcement Division (SLED) are investigating both officer-involved shootings – which is protocol in the vast majority of local law enforcement jurisdictions in the Palmetto State.
Details are sparse related to the Laurens County incident. In fact, this was the entirety of the statement issued by the sheriff’s office …
(Click to view)
(Via: Laurens County Sheriff’s Office)
As of this writing, all we know beyond this limited narrative of events is that Gary was allegedly armed at the time of the shooting.
Hopefully, SLED investigators will get to the bottom of both incidents and determine whether the officers involved acted appropriately. Also, hopefully local law enforcement agencies will opt for maximum transparency and release all video footage from these shootings as soon as investigators have concluded their work.
My news outlet has also consistently championed the release of body-cam and dash-cam footage from officer-involved shootings – believing the release of such evidence supports public confidence in the conclusions of law enforcement investigations.
“We should expect full transparency from the law enforcement agencies,” I noted earlier this year.
Officer-involved shootings are on the rise in the Palmetto State. In 2020, there were 49 such incidents – tying a record set back in 2017. Last year there were 40 such shootings.
This is just one indicator of a broader increase in violence in South Carolina. As I reported last fall, the Palmetto State’s murder rate soared by 22.1 percent last year while aggravated assaults climbed by 10.1 percent, according to SLED data (.pdf).
These increases – which I broke down further in this post – came on top of huge spikes in these categories recorded during the previous year. That prompted a warning from the Palmetto State’s top cop.
“I am extremely concerned by the increasing amount of violence in our state, specifically the number of murders and assaults,” SLED chief Mark Keel said in a statement issued on Monday.
That violence is continuing to escalate this year …
In addition to the aforementioned officer-involved shootings, last weekend saw a pair of shootings in Newberry, S.C. that killed four people – all teenagers. The first shooting took place early Sunday on Wise Street approximately two miles from downtown Newberry – and claimed the life of a 16-year-old. Approximately fifteen hours later, police responded to another shooting in the same neighborhood – approximately a tenth of a mile from where the first shooting took place. That incident claimed the lives of three people between the ages of 15 and 19.
According to Newberry police chief Kevin Goodman, all four victims knew each other and “were in the same circle.” Newberry shut down its government-run schools on Monday in the aftermath of the bloodshed – fearing additional violence.
SLED is assisting the town in its investigation of the two shootings …
In addition to covering these violent incidents, I plan on continuing to advocate in support of long-overdue reforms to South Carolina’s antiquated, inefficient and ineffectual system of justice. That includes tougher standards for bonds, tougher sentences for violent criminals and a fundamental overhaul of the way judges are chosen in the Palmetto State.
Oh, and adequate funding for law enforcement …
South Carolina politicians, judges and a handful of prosecutors have chosen in recent years to incentivize violent criminals at the expense of victims and at the expense of public safety. They should not be remotely surprised that the result of their policy is more deadly violence.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR …
Will Folks is the founding editor of the news outlet you are currently reading. Prior to founding FITSNews, he served as press secretary to the governor of South Carolina. He lives in the Midlands region of the state with his wife and seven children.
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