Beaufort County Sheriff P.J. Tanner, center right, is flanked by some of his deputies during a neighborhood meeting regarding a recent surge in gun violence in northern Beaufort County, Tanner speaking to about 100 concerned citizens, explained that his deputies can’t make an arrest when everyone they interview says, “I was there but I didn’t see anything.” Tanner said the lack of cooperation with law enforcement is so bad that sometimes enough information can’t be gathered to get a search warrant. Photo by Bob Sofaly.

 Sheriff turns to community after ‘running gun show’

 By Tony Kukulich 

Calling the shooting of a 52-year-old man in Burton last week the “straw that broke the camel’s back, Beaufort County Sheriff P.J. Tanner held a community meeting Tuesday night, March 29, to discuss recent gun violence in unincorporated Beaufort County, particularly in the Burton area. 

“We’ve had a running gun show out here between Possum Hill, Milledge Village and some other areas,” he said. “I’ve had the violent crimes task force on the ground out here for a couple of months now almost going door to door trying to retrieve infor-mation about some of the shootings that we’ve had in this community.” 

A large crowd filed into the auditorium at Battery Creek High School. When Col. Allen Horton of the Sheriff’s Office asked how many of the attendees were Burton residents, a majority of those in the room raised their hand. 

Like the meeting held last week by City of Beaufort Police Chief Dale McDorman, Tanner and his staff implored residents to share any information they have regarding recent violence with investigators, saying that communities will have as much crime as they allow. 

“People are very reluctant to have a conversation with a deputy,” Tanner acknowledged. “They don’t want to be seen having a conversation with a deputy. When that white patrol car pulls up, that’s not a magnet. We know that there were people here tonight that have critical information about, not only the shooting case we had last week, but the shooting cases we’ve had in the past year.” 

The incident that sparked Tuesday night’s conversation was the shooting death of 52-year-old Burton resident Malcolm Donaldson. On Wednesday night, March 23, deputies responded to a report of a gunshot victim on Lexxus Lane near Milledge Village Road. They found Donaldson in a vehicle, and he was transported to Beaufort Memorial Hos-pital. He died a short time later. A press release issued by the Sheriff’s Office said that evidence collected from the scene indicated “it was likely that more than one subject was involved in the shooting.”

Other recent incidents include: the Feb. 24 shooting death 29-year-old Christian Her-nandez on the 100 block of Joe Frazier Road in Burton, allegedly by his 22-year-old stepson Daniel Adame-Guatemala; the March 5 shooting death of 55-year-old Burton Steven Whitlock, who was apparently shot and killed in his yard on Franklin Drive; a March 6 incident in which multiple shots struck homes and vehicles, but resulted in no injuries, on Stuart Point Road in Seabrook; a March 12 shooting at a party in the Green Acres area of Burton that injured an adult male and and juvenile male. 

“We get a bunch of shots fired calls,” Horton said. “We’ve got vehicles that are being shot. We’ve got homes that are being shot. I can tell there’s been very few cases over the past year, if we’ve 45 shots fired calls, we don’t get names associated with who’s causing the problem. Who’s shooting into the house? Who’s shooting into the car – the names, the aliases, the cars they’re driving. We don’t get that information. We want to work with the community and try to make progress and get that information.” 

Valeria Richardson attended the meeting and said that she lost a child to gun violence.

“We have to do something,” she said. “Unless you’ve lost a child you have no idea. It’s been 12 years for me, and it feels like it just happened. Everytime I hear about all of these killings, it really hits home.”

As attendees entered the auditorium, deputies handed each one a sheet of paper with the Crime Stoppers phone number in large print, along with phone numbers for Tanner and a number of his officers and deputies. He emphasized that residents using the Crime Stoppers number can remain anonymous because those calls are not received by the Sheriff’s Office. Rather, Crime Stoppers receives the call and passes the information to the Sheriff’s Office. 

According to the Crime Stoppers of the Lowcountry website, “All tipsters remain anon-ymous. We do not have caller ID. We do not record phone calls. We do not ask for your name. Computer IPs are not saved. Locations are not tracked. A unique computer generated Tip ID and password are provided to each tipster.”

Crime Stoppers of the Lowcountry can be reached at 843-554-1111 or online at www.5541111.com. A phone app entitled P3 Tips is also available. 

“Be a part of the process,” Tanner said as he concluded his remarks. “Be a part of the solution. Don’t be a part of the problem, and part of the problem is not talking, not communicating. We all together can make this a whole lot better, but we’ve got to start talking.”

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