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Officers call Richland County teen's shooting gang-related

Published: Aug. 5, 2007 at 4:13 PM EDT|Updated: Aug. 11, 2007 at 3:51 AM EDT
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RICHLAND COUNTY, SC (WIS) - Police say a young woman, about ready to start college in the fall, was shot in her car in the middle of a Richland County road early Sunday morning.

Officials say Doneisha Smallwood's murder is a gang-related killing with a direct link to two other fatal shootings this year.

In February, 15-year-old Brian Wright was murdered at the Waffle House on Two Notch Road near I-20. In March, 18-year-old Victor Bonner was killed in the Newcastle area.

The Sheriff's department says Smallwood's murder happened around 1:00am Sunday on Crane Church Road.

On that morning, three ladies witnessed something that no one should ever have to go through -- they all watched their friend die.

"She really liked to have fun. She was a real sweet person," said Taleeta Archie.

Her friends say Smallwood graduated from Ridgeview High School in May. But Taleeta says her 17th birthday celebration would be the last party Doneisha Smallwood would attend with her best friends.
  
There are questions around what happened. Lt. Chris Cowan says there were two vehicles struck with bullets. The first was hit multiple times on Crane Church Road, but no one was hit. The driver went home and told his parents, who reported it to deputies.

A spokesperson with the Richland County Sheriff's Department says, in another vehicle, the girls were on their way home when Doneisha was driving down Crane Church Road.

They say they came across a group of men fighting and then they stopped. A gun was fired, leaving Smallwood dead.

Martika Breland was sitting right next to Doneisha. She says they didn't see anyone fighting, and that bullets just came out of nowhere.

"We heard gunshots," Breland told WIS News 10's Trey Paul. When asked if she saw the men fighting in the road, Breland said, "We don't know. We didn't see anybody. It was dark."

The girls say the bullet seemed to come out of nowhere while Smallwood was driving.

"When she got shot everybody was like 'duck and drive the car' and I was like 'no, she can't drive, she's shot' and that's when she leaned over me and I pushed her up to see what was wrong and that's when the car went out of control," said Martika Breland.

Seconds later Doneisha fell into Breland's arms and died.

Now the investigation continues into who fired the deadly shot.

"The key with this is that somebody in the community knows who was there," says Chris Cowan of the Sheriff's department.

Updated by Logan Smith