Winnsboro police investigate string of drive-by shootings involving teens

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Published: Aug. 12, 2022 at 10:01 PM EDT
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WINNSBORO, S.C. (WIS) - Winnsboro police are investigating a series of drive-by shootings in the last three weeks that have left five teens shot, and some homes sprayed with bullets.

Each of the shootings in the small Fairfield County town happened within two miles of each other, and two happened just blocks from the Winnsboro Department of Public Safety.

The most recent shooting happened Thursday night.

Chief John Seibles, the Winnsboro Department of Public Safety Director said the department believes the shootings are related, and potentially even retaliatory. He believes that some of the shooters are juveniles as well.

“We’re determined that we are not going to have this in the town of Winnsboro,” he said. “We’re determined we’re going to stop this one way or the other.”

Investigators said there’s a “good possibility” the shootings are gang-related, but said they could not confirm that at this point in the investigation.

Seibles said they do have suspects in a few of these cases, but have not made an arrest at this time.

“I’m from this community, been here for a very long time, and know most of the people in the town,” he said. “So I feel like I have a, not only for the purpose of public safety, I have a vested interest in this community.”

According to the department, the most recent rash of drive-by shootings began on July 23, when two teens were shot on Calhoun Street. One was shot in the back and the other was shot in the stomach, but both have recovered, investigators said.

Last Friday, Seibles said two 13-year-olds were shot in the leg just up the road from Fairfield Central High School and Fairfield Middle School. He said about five children were sitting on the sign outside the Chatham Forest subdivision shortly after dismissal when a car drove by and fired multiple shots.

Overnight Tuesday, Seibles said more shots were fired at a home on Vanderhorst Steet. No one was hurt in that shooting, but he said the home was hit several times.

On Thursday evening, one teen was hit while walking down College Street near Spring Street, according to Winnsboro DPS. Seibles said two juveniles were walking down College Street when a car approached and began firing shots.

As of April, the town had no shootings or drive-bys, but there have been at least 10 since that time.

Some neighbors said they have never felt more unsafe.

“It’s made me feel real unsecure,” Harold Heath, who has lived on the same street in Winnsboro for 75 years, said. “I’ve never felt like I feel now in this community.”

Heath, a former football coach, said this violence has shocked and surprised him.

“I worked here in the public schools for 19 years in Fairfield County, and we had some wonderful kids come through school to graduate from Fairfield Central, and now we’re seeing some horrible things that’s happening with our young people,” he said. “I’m really disturbed because I’ve worked with young people all my life.”

Seibles said investigators are working to determine where these juveniles got the guns.

“I think some of these guns are stolen, and not necessarily from within the town,” he said. “We recovered one gun from a juvenile and it was actually stolen from the county. And I think they’re being stolen from other places, from other counties.”

Seibles pleaded with parents to keep a close eye on their children.

“You have to watch your kids and you have to watch activities,” he said. “Watch these social media sites, watch YouTube and see these videos we see out there, and see what your children are doing and hold your kids accountable.”

Seibles said the department will remain vigilant until these criminals are brought to justice.

“We want to do the very best we can as a department to make sure that we stop this before somebody – fortunately nobody has died in this rash of violence – but we want to stop it before it gets to that point,” he said.

Winnsboro DPS is also considering asking town officials to impose a curfew for juveniles, as much of this activity has occurred late at night.

Seibles is urging anyone with information to contact Winnsboro DPS. The number to reach the department is 803-635-4511.

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