Basketball court shootings raise questions

in Voices by

The Rauch Report

By Bill Rauch

The Community Circle of Hope Coalition’s Anita Singleton-Prather told it to the Beaufort County Council like it was last week. Speaking of the recent murders of two young men on the county’s Greene Street outdoor basketball court she said, “It’s not over. With school getting out and no jobs and nowhere to go, the rumbling is still in the community. I don’t want the blood on my hands because I didn’t come down here to tell you.”

Beaufort Police Chief Matthew Clancy sat quietly in the audience. His department is investigating the fatal shootings of Detuan Jenkins, 19, and Matthew Horne, 20, the two men who were shot and killed recently in separate incidents at the basketball court. Horne was allegedly involved in the neighborhood mayhem last year that caused the lockdown of the USCB and Bridges School campuses.

The city’s redevelopment plan for several key Northwest Quadrant city blocks as depicted on page 109 of Beaufort’s 2014 Civic Master Plan. The darker proposed buildings would be new “in-filled” buildings. The plan would roughly triple the density of the neighborhood.
The city’s redevelopment plan for several key Northwest Quadrant city blocks as depicted on page 109 of Beaufort’s 2014 Civic Master Plan. The darker proposed buildings would be new “in-filled” buildings. The plan would roughly triple the density of the neighborhood.

The police have been holding an 18 year-old Beaufort man on murder charges in connection with the shooting of Jenkins, according to The Beaufort County Detention Center’s website.

On Sunday the police picked up a Beaufort teenager in connection with Horne’s killing. He is now being held for murder in the Beaufort County Detention Center too, according to the jail’s website.

Darryl T. Murphy, the host of “Open Mic” on The Gullah People’s Radio Station, also spoke at the meeting. He pointed out, as did Ms. Singleton-Prather, that the county’s Charles “Lind” Brown Activity Center that is adjacent to the outdoor basketball court on Greene Street is no longer available to the neighborhood. The county rented the building to the Bridges School two years ago. Since then there’s been no access to the building, including to its bathrooms, for anyone over 13 years of age who is not associated with the school.

Referring to the Pepper Hall land purchase issue that dominated last week’s County Council meeting, Murphy told the County Council, “You’ve got 12 million dollars to spend to preserve a view in another area, but you have no money to provide the Charles “Lind” Brown Activity Center outdoor basketball court with a public facility? Am I the one who’s crazy, or is it those who are making these decisions? It bothers me that a girl has nowhere to go but in the bushes.” Ms. Singleton-Prather described to the County Council a whole youth program she and her group have ready to go, including more than 50 qualified instructors who will work on a pro bono basis, except that they have no classrooms.

The loss to the neighborhood of the Charles “Lind” Brown Activity Center building is just the latest example of government walking away from the Northwest Quadrant community. Over the past few years as the number of police calls citywide has steadily risen and the number of Beaufort Police Department officers available to respond to those calls has remained the same there have been fewer and fewer officers with the time to do the proactive policing work known as “community policing” that law enforcement experts agree is necessary to keeping communities safe. Now when officers respond to calls in the neighborhood it is less likely these responding officers know who’s who. And that’s when mistakes get made.

Community police officers would also have been, for example, there to predict that leasing out the Charles “Lind” Brown Activity Center building, following the closing of The Boys and Girls Club, might lead to trouble, and they would have been powerful voices standing up for the neighborhood. But the department was uninvolved in that decision, its public information officer, Cpl. Hope Able, confirmed last week. A C+ community policing operation would also be vaporizing the graffiti that is emerging as a new symbol of Beaufort’s unwillingness to fight this fight.

VOICES - BILLAre these important turns of events just the inadvertent results of government belt-tightening, as taken individually they may appear, or are they the throughput of a larger policy?

Beaufort’s 2014 Civic Master Plan calls for the gentrification (redevelopment) of the Northwest Quadrant. That initiative marks a major shift in the city’s policy with respect to that neighborhood. In previous years the city’s policy called for the preservation of the Northwest Quadrant neighborhood.

City policy matters. The gentrification is occurring now and the pressures from it are evident everywhere — from the closing of the Piggly Wiggly grocery store, to the closing to the community of the Charles “Lind” Brown Activity Center, to the shootings. There have been a record six murders – all by gunshots — in northern Beaufort County, three of which have occurred in the Northwest Quadrant, so far this year, ‘The Beaufort Gazette’ reported Sunday.

Derek Clement, a Harrington Street resident, feels it. “Over the last year the crime has gotten out of control. Just this year we’ve had 3 murders within a 1/2 mile of our house and we routinely hear gunshots at night. We [the neighborhood] cannot get a clear idea, or even a response, from City Council as to what they are doing to address and put a stop to the crime downtown.”

Another neighborhood resident, Joy Kraft, expressed similar thoughts in a recent letter to City Council: “A neighborhood in transition needs pioneer renovators as well as loyal long-time residents looking for a quality, stable environment for their families, protected from gunshots and drug deals.”

With parents working or gone, the Boys and Girls Club gone, the Charles “Lind” Brown Activity Center gone, the neighborhood police gone, and now their traditional neighborhood going, a lot of infrastructure has been lost recently by some of Beaufort’s young people.

Moreover, secularism – the chasing out of any hint of God or religion or religious teaching from the country’s schools and governments – is clearly also having an effect. According to a recent Pew Research Center survey, since 2007 one percent of Americans per year have changed their religious affiliation from “Christian” to “none.” “It’s getting harder and harder to keep young people in the church today,” Reverend Kenneth F. Hodges, the pastor at Tabernacle Baptist Church on Craven Street observed recently. “The social fabric is kind of unraveling. We don’t see that ‘it takes a village’ community in Beaufort the way it used to be.” In addition to serving as Tabernacle’s pastor, Hodges represents much of the Beaufort area in the South Carolina House of Representatives, and he runs the Lybensons Art Gallery on Charles Street.

Where such an infrastructure void is created, there will be others who will seek to step in to fill it.

For Detuan Jenkins, 19, whose street name, according to his Facebook page was “lil tuan,” law enforcement sources say they suspect it was a gang affiliation and drug money that caused the disagreement that was settled by the fatal bullet. That Jenkins described his job on his Facebook page as “lik city gangsta/jacc boys” seems to support law enforcement’s suspicions.

For Matthew Horne, 20, from the Dale community and known on the street as “lil Matt,” who was shot three weeks ago, investigators are also pursuing drug and gang leads.  Dale is the home base of the Finesse Gang who have a video on YouTube that is of interest to law enforcement. “Nothing in recent cases suggests anyone was affiliated in any specific gang or group,” Cpl. Hope Able cautioned Friday.

“This creates a unique opportunity for the churches, the county and the city to come together to demonstrate that we are our brother’s keeper,” Reverend Hodges concluded. “It still takes a village to raise a child.”