Updated 10 p.m., Thursday
Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg’s suggested actions on gun violence at a Tuesday afternoon press conference do not address the root of the problem in the Lowcountry, one community leader says.
The mayor’s press conference came in the wake of nine Charleston residents, a Charleston police officer and two county sheriff’s deputies being injured at a Monday night shooting sparked during a block party in the peninsula’s Eastside neighborhood.
Tecklenburg opened the conference with an acknowledgement of the number of shootings in the country just this year, according to stats from the Gun Violence Archive, a nonprofit that collects gun violence data nationwide.
“We have here in Charleston a mass shooting,” Tecklenburg said. “I know this is on the top of most everyone’s minds in our country today after the horrific shootings in Buffalo weeks ago … and of course in Uvalde, Texas, just last week.
“There’s been 230 mass shootings in America so far this year,” he continued. “It’s May 31 — that’s day 151 — that means there’s been just over one-and-a-half mass shootings per day in America … Every 16 hours in our country, there’s a mass shooting. I don’t know about you, but I’m angry about it. I’m mad about it. I’m fed up … Enough is enough, and this entire issue of gun violence has to be addressed.”
The mayor proposed eight action steps to be taken in the wake of this shooting to curb gun violence in Charleston:
- More arrests be made in relation to this incident
- Create an accountability measure for landlords
- Reiterate the city’s request to legislature to establish a graduated penalty system for repeat gun-use offenders
- Continue enforcement of laws already on the books
- Promote responsible gun ownership — hundreds of guns are stolen from unlocked cars every year
- Shut down excessive unpermitted events in public spaces
- Review traffic measures in the Eastside neighborhood, specifically along South Street
- Review the city’s response to Monday night’s shooting
Tecklenburg said he welcomes additional proposals to supplement these to bring gun violence down.
Chief Reynolds also spoke at the Tuesday press conference, speaking out for unity and collaboration to combat gun violence.
“We have a gun violence problem, and it’s not something we — the police department — can do by ourselves,” he said. “We have to do it in community, we have to do it in partnership, we have to do it in collaboration with others. This is an ongoing process. There’s a lot of good things happening, but what happened last night cannot happen again. There’s a problem that needs to be solved, but we need to solve it together.
In an interview on Thursday, local pastor Thomas Dixon said he was less than impressed by the proposals and the lack of communication with longtime members of the community in the wake of the shooting.
“Under [Charleston Police Chief Luther Reynolds] and Tecklenburg, somewhere along the way, they decided to sit themselves on one side of the bridge-building process and put members of the community on the other side,” Dixon said. “It’s their way or no way. We’re never going to have a solution to this problem if we continue along that path.”
“You have to involve the pastors in the churches, the local nonprofits — every aspect of our elected officials and community leaders,” Dixon added. “When you see how to connect the dots, and when everybody understands their individual responsibility to do their part, then we can begin to address this.”
As of Wednesday afternoon, seven of the 10 victims had been treated and released from the hospital, according to reports. The other three are still hospitalized, but are reportedly in stable condition.
The officer was dispatched around 11:40 p.m. Monday night in response to a neighborhood block party after receiving a noise complaint. According to reports, investigators believe the officer to have been caught in the crossfire when the shooting began and injured by glass shrapnel which came into his cruiser as he responded — his cruiser was struck multiple times by gunfire, including a bullet in the headrest.
The two county deputies were assaulted while assisting police in controlling the crowd. One deputy was struck in the face, and the other was knocked to the ground. Both were treated for minor injuries, including cuts to the face, head and arms, according to sheriff’s office spokesman Andrew Knapp.
Three people have been arrested in relation to the shooting, according to Knapp. Tahira McGee, 50, of North Charleston was charged with second-degree assault and battery and resisting arrest. Ayesha Saleemah McGee, 26, of North Charleston was charged with third-degree assault and battery. Maurice Malloy, 35, was arrested for disorderly conduct.
It has not yet been determined how the violence broke out or why the crowd had gathered in the first place. Social media posts, however, had been advertising a block party in the area for that night going back as far as April 30.
Nearly two hours of footage live streamed to Facebook by a neighbor captures the harrowing scene in the aftermath of the shooting — crying residents, frantic emergency responders and discarded party supplies are lit by flashing lights from ambulances and police cruisers.
In addition to the Charleston Police Department, City Paper has reached out to city council members William Dudley Gregorie and Robert Mitchell, whose district includes the Eastside neighborhood. Neither has yet responded to requests for comment. This is a developing story. Follow Charleston City Paper for more information.