‘We have to do something to save our communities’: Roundtable discussion on shootings held in Sumter after recent homicides

Updated: Oct. 3, 2019 at 11:52 PM EDT
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SUMTER, S.C. (WIS) - On Thursday evening, a roundtable discussion was held in Sumter County to address crime there, specifically violence committed by those with guns.

The meeting comes after at least five reported shootings in Sumter in September. Five people were killed and at least five others hurt in the shootings, some of which law enforcement officials said were gang-related.

We asked officials how this year’s homicide rate compares to last. Sumter County Sheriff’s Office authorities said they investigated three homicides in 2018, which is the same number as this year. The Sumter Police Department also said, in 2018, they looked into four homicides. So far this year, that number has already reached nine.

The meeting held at St. Paul AME Church Shaw covered a variety of topics from the importance of parenting to counseling and finding ways to keep the youth occupied. The meeting was also about the blueprint for the future.

Building Better Communities founder Perry Bradley sees hope in the few that attended the meeting. He hopes that more will start to attend.

"To be honest, we have to do something to save our communities,” said Bradley. “We don't, we lose our next generation. We want people to understand that gun violence is not just going to be something that is fixed by the police but by the community as a whole: how we raise our kids, how we report crime, how we not let things just go. We see a crime, we need to report that crime. If you hear gunshots, report the gunshots."

A community member at the meeting commented on the number of funerals in that church alone, saying there had been six for people who were murdered.

“Sumter, proportionately for the gun violence that takes place here, we’re too high. We should not be that high for the proportion that low number of people that we have here,” Eric R. Dent, Reverend of St. Paul AME Church Shaw, said.

Dent said he hopes his church can create change on a mission, they add, cannot wait anymore.

Sumter Police and Sumter County Sheriff's deputies did not attend today, but each agency did send WIS a statement.

The police department’s statement said in part: "The Sumter Police Department has various strategies in place to address recent crimes and curtail future acts of violence. Person-on-person crimes are difficult to predict and prevent. However, with continued assistance from the community, we are better able to identify potential trouble spots and address them."

The statement from the sheriff's office added the following: "We are currently taking steps to address the issue of gun violence in Sumter County, but we are not ready to release that information at this time."

Bradley said his organization is looking to launch a gun buyback program soon and is working to partner with law enforcement agencies.

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