Lolita Huckaby



Are those bullets or firecrackers?

It’s spring and… the bullets are flying?

That’s not what we like to think about our little community, but if you’re keeping track of local crime reports (which is easier said than done) there does seem to be an increase in shootings in the past month, not just in the city but out in the county as well. 

Friday night, March 25, gunshots at the Food Lion on Lady’s Island hit an individual who was taken to BMH and forced shoppers to vacate the building. Suspect eventually turned himself in. 

Wednesday, March 23, a man was shot dead on Lexus Lane near Milledge Village Road, which is in the Burton area. No arrests yet. 

Sunday, March 20, two people were injured by gunshots at the Elks Club on Church Street, which is in the middle of one of Beaufort’s residential neighborhoods. 

Tuesday, March 22, police interviewed a man at BMH who said he had been shot earlier in the day in Burton. No arrests yet. 

Also Tuesday, March 22, a Burton man in a wheelchair was shot in his finger. No arrests yet. 

You don’t have to look at the nightly TV news from Savannah or Charleston to realize this corner of the Lowcountry isn’t being targeted, so to speak. Gun violence is rampant but when it comes to a town that’s just won a designation from Southern Living as “South’s Best Small Town,” you just expect better. 

Beaufort Police Chief Dale McDorman and Mayor Stephen Murray met with concerned neighbors of the Elks Club shooting last week and tried to convey a single message: we’re in this together; we (being the law enforcement community) need your help as much as you (residents) need us. 

There were other messages, but just like that one, you can pick those up on most any popular crime/ law enforcement TV show, it’s not easy to make arrests without eye witnesses. The police may know who the criminals are, but without proof, you don’t have a case. 

And then there’s the judicial system to blame. More weeks of court are needed. Sentencing guidelines often result in the accused criminal out on the street “before the officer gets home to dinner,” as the police chief said. 

Almost as a balance to the recent news about shootings, a St. Helena man was sentenced to life in prison after a local jury found him guilty of shooting another in 2020. That was two years ago; want to guess how many witnesses left the area in that period, how many changed their minds about what they saw? 

The causes and solutions of such societal issues can, and have been, discussed at length. But one issue that arose from the recent public conversation and expressed by neighbors was the need for communication. 

In the case of the Elks Club shooting, the police department didn’t issue a statement until Tuesday. McDorman apologized for that and acknowledged it was a mistake to have taken so long. 

But in today’s social media climate, there was plenty being said online. And neighbors who had heard those gun shots were fearful. Many were new to the neighborhood and wondered what in the world was happening to their “peaceful” piece of paradise. 

The sheriff’s department has, for several years, offered reports on NIXLE, an online alert system which, if you’ve got it properly loaded onto your phone, notifies you of things like car wrecks and traffic congestion. The department spends approximately $16,000 a year for this service which now takes the place of a good, old police scanner you might have had sitting on your desk, if you were one of those people who likes to know where the blue lights are going. 

The days of the scanner are pretty much gone, but the days of people wanting to know what’s going on around them, certainly are not. 

Friday deadline for party filings 

BEAUFORT – Friday noon is the deadline for filing for the June 14 primaries and there’s already some interesting local races shaping up. 

For starters, Jo-Jo Woodward, a former captain in the Sheriff’s Department, is running against against 24-year veteran P.J. Tanner in the Republican primary. No Democrats have filed for the office. 

Woodward challenged his former boss in 2018 but lost with just more than 45 percent of the votes. The challenger, after leaving the sheriff’s department, went to work as an investigator for 14th District Solicitor Duffie Stone, prompting Tanner supporters to start the rumor that the Solicitor encouraged Woodward to run. 

In addition, Tanner’s wife, Magistrate Angela McCall-Tanner, ran unsuccessfully against Stone in 2016. 

A race has also developed in the Beaufort County Council District 2 Republican primary where incumbent Paul Sommerville filed for re-election last week and is facing a challenge from local attorney David Bartholomew. The winner of that primary race will face Democrat Marilyn Harris in November. 

And if you’re thinking about running and happen to live in the city of Beaufort, there will be two seats of Beaufort City Council’s four seats will be up for grabs this year, with filing to open in those non-partisan races April 1. 

The seats held by Councilmen Phil Cromer and Mike McFee – yes, McFee has to run again – will be open. 

Harris Teeter update? 

LADY’S ISLAND – Still nothing to report, BUT clearing has begun on the new Beaufort Station, 31 formerly wooded acres at the intersection of Parris Island Gateway and S.C. 170. 

The new shopping center, once most of the trees are gone and pavement is installed, is slated to be the new site of an Old Navy, Hobby Lobby and an Aldi discount grocery. The Morgan Companies out of Charlotte, N.C., are listed as the developers. 

Lolita Huckaby Watson is a community volunteer and former reporter/editorial assistant/columnist with The Beaufort Gazette, The Savannah Morning News, Bluffton Today, Beaufort Today and The Robesonian (Lumberton, N.C.). She can be reached at bftbay@gmail.com. 

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