As many as six people were wounded in a shooting Friday along the Isle of Palms beach as hundreds of high school students from Charleston, Berkeley and Dorchester counties were enjoying a traditional spring day of cutting class.
Videos captured by pedestrians showed the chaos as crowds of students and beachgoers fled in panic from the picturesque beach, just north of Charleston.
First responders, some already on the beach breaking up fights between the teens, attempted to shield those nearby when shots rang out.
Bystanders also rushed to help, offering clothing to help stop the flow of blood from wounds, said Isle of Palms Police Chief Kevin Cornett at a Saturday morning press conference.
“It is devastating to me that we have a community anywhere where children are injured, where children are involved in violence, where children think it is OK to commit any violent act,” Cornett said.
The Isle of Palms Police Department confirmed two arrests for weapon possession following the shooting.
Shawn Alexander Martin-Goods, 18, was arrested in a municipal parking lot for possession of a firearm. Also arrested, according to Cornett, was a 16-year-old juvenile, whose name is not being released, for possession of a stolen firearm and unlawful carrying of a firearm.
Cornett confirmed that handguns were seized from both teenagers, who were booked at the Charleston County jail.
On Friday, hundreds of teenagers showed up on the wide, sandy beach surrounded by grassy dunes to celebrate “senior skip day.” Cornett said that the tradition of cutting class to enjoy a day of good weather and freedom was known to school administrators.
That morning, anticipating many people, Cornett requested additional deputies from the Charleston County Sheriff’s Office to supplement the officers sent to the beach.
By 5:20 p.m., social media videos showed a large crowd had formed around the boardwalk in front of the Sea Cabins vacation rentals. Cornett said two fights broke out, and law enforcement rushed to respond when gunshots cracked through the air.
Shots in rapid succession can be heard on the videos as people fled the scene.
In a chaotic scene, two law enforcement officers can be seen on a Snapchat video wrestling an individual to the ground in the middle of a melee in front of the boardwalk, as kicks and fists fly around them. It is still unknown what caused the fights or shooting, Cornett said.
The wounded individuals were treated at the Medical University of South Carolina. Among them was a woman in her mid-30s who was “just an innocent victim in a bad spot,” Cornett said.
Cornett said the injuries were not life-threatening and most victims had already been released from the hospital.
Investigators are now left to puzzle through a chaotic scene where, despite the crowds and cameras, few have been willing to talk, Charleston County Sheriff Kristin Graziano explained.
“We didn’t get cooperation from most of the folks that we spoke to,” Graziano told the media. “There are people that were on the beach yesterday that know what happened. There are parents that know the kids that were on the beach and know what happened. I guarantee they know something.”
Cornett said officers were reviewing footage from video cameras in the area, and urged anyone who captured footage to come forward.
In addition to the Dorchester and Charleston Sheriff’s offices, the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, FBI and the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division responded to the shooting.
The police chief credited the agencies’ strong relationships and collaborative training for the swift response.
Mayor calls gun violence ‘unacceptable’
Isle of Palms Mayor Philip Pounds applauded the “incredible response” from law enforcement but added “too many times this is happening in our country.”
The shooting just before Easter weekend comes almost exactly a year after gunfire shattered a peaceful day at the Columbiana Center Mall and barely two weeks after six were killed at the Convent School, a private elementary school, in Nashville, Tennessee.
Charleston remains haunted by the killing of nine Black parishioners at the Emmanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church by white supremacist Dylann Roof in 2015. Last summer, Deljavon Lamat Simmons was arrested after 12 people were shot during a block party in downtown Charleston over Memorial Day weekend.
“Here we are once again, talking to the public about a mass shooting in the Charleston area,” Graziano told the media. “The response is always the same: We’ve had a lot of practice doing it. This is simply unacceptable.”
Republican U.S. Rep. Nancy Mace, who represented the 1st Congressional Districts, including Isle of Palms, tweeted in part, “I will not politicize this horrific event tonight, but I have many thoughts about policies worked on over the years to reduce gun violence. It’s past time to WORK TOGETHER.”
Mace added that it made her “sick” to see that policies did not address root causes. “Both sides just dig their heels in, unwilling to have an honest conversation.”
In response, Dr. Annie Andrews, a pediatrician who Mace defeated in the general election this past November tweeted that she “would sincerely (love) to sit down w/you to discuss the issue of gun violence. I am an expert on this, in fact. We know why it’s on the rise. And we know what the solutions are.”
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