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Gun violence in the City of Sumter reaches 10-year high, federal operation nets top gang members

Published: Dec. 17, 2019 at 8:38 PM EST
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SUMTER, S.C. (WIS) - The Sumter Police Department has investigated nine homicides so far in 2019, more than double the number of killings the department saw last year.

There were four homicides in 2018.

Since June, the department has investigated three double homicides, including the deaths of Sharee Bradley and her 5-year-old daughter Nevaeh, who were allegedly killed by Daunte Johnson. Adams’ body was discovered in the Richland County landfill in October.

“It’s been a trying time for our city and I understand people in the community view that in a negative light and have concerns about safety issues,” Sumter Police Chief Russell Roark said.

In July, two Guatemalan men were shot in the front yard of a home after an attempted robbery. Roark said investigators believe the motive was a language barrier. In August, Bradley was found dead inside her Lantana Apartment and Adams was missing. Then, in September, two men were killed at a Sunoco gas station on Broad Street in Sumter. Roark said the motive behind the shooting was theft and a rap song titled “Boost The Murder Rate.”

Three other homicides took place earlier in the year, one of which resulted in an involuntary manslaughter charge.

“I don’t think it’s indicative of the community at large being a violent place,” Roark said. “We’ve had a situation we haven’t experienced in the last several years, where the actions of three people ended the lives of six others.”

The Sumter County Sheriff’s Office has seen the highest number of homicides it has investigated in recent years. The department has investigated five killings this year and made an arrest in each case.

“One death is too many,” Chief Deputy Hampton Gardner said. “But we want people to know that we’re not going to tolerate this kind of behavior and we’re doing our best to keep it in check.”

Gardner said of the five homicides his department has investigated, all have been related to drugs. Two of the cases have known gang ties, he said.

“Gangs and drugs are very closely related,” he said. “Usually, one is not existent without the other.”

Roark said gang activity exists in Sumter and officers do their best to use intelligence-based policing to gather information about illegal behavior.

Last week, both departments announced 18 people have been indicted on federal drug charges. The Sumter Police Department, Sheriff’s Office, FBI, and DEA worked together on Operation Stash and Wedge. Federal charges were filed against high-ranking gang members tied to violence between rival groups in the community, according to the department. Further, they’re accused of conspiring to bring multiple kilos of heroin and other narcotics into the community.

Roark said additional arrests will be forthcoming and the indictments will “substantially disrupt” the illegal drug trade locally.

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