KERSHAW COUNTY, SC (WIS) - Damage to a Kershaw County church cemetery has drawn interest and offers of repair help from all over the state, so says Mount Zion Baptist Church Pastor Ernest Rabon.
A chain link fence and more than a dozen of the cemetery's memorials and markers were mowed down Oct. 18 during a high-speed chase by deputies trying to catch a group of store burglary suspects.
Investigators say the three men were fleeing the scene of two Dollar General store break-ins in Camden and the Cassatt community. The pursuit hit speeds up to 115 miles an hour before the suspects tried to ditch the deputies by driving through the cemetery.
Rabon says the church dates back to 1865 and the cemetery includes century-old grave markers along with several for Confederate soldiers. Surveying the damage Thursday, Rabon says it could have been worse.
"Most of what they hit was a couple of stones that had identification on them, but the rest of them were just kind of rocks," Rabon said.
Rabon says after deputy dashcam video aired on TV, his phone began ringing with offers from people who wanted to help with repairs.
"I have been amazed. Starting yesterday morning after they showed the video. I got several phone calls from Georgetown, Conway, Myrtle Beach, even up in Waynesville, North Carolina," Rabon said.
Among those stopping by to check the damage, LaBruce Hopkins, who says the cemetery includes burial sites for several distant relatives. Hopkins happens to own a cemetery monument repair business.
"Some stones need to be replaced, some reset, some of them cleaned up," he said. "It's labor intensive, but it can be fixed."
Kershaw County Sheriff Jim Matthews says his department is also willing to take part in the repair work. Matthews says he told Rabon he regretted the damage, but felt it was necessary to catch up to the suspects.
All three men were taken into custody after the chase. They are wanted in connection with as many as 60 Dollar General store burglaries and safecrackings, most of them in South Carolina.