In the waning minutes of 2012, 19-year-old Domenic Hartwell of North Charleston strolled to a nearby store for candy and soda.
It was supposed to be a quick trip through his Dorchester-Waylyn community after 11 p.m. Monday. He would buy snacks, then head back to his mother’s house on Ranger Drive, where he would join his loved ones and pray for a fruitful new year — a family tradition.
But about 15 minutes after leaving, Hartwell got caught up in some other people’s idea of a New Year’s Eve celebration.
A white sedan first lightly struck Hartwell, knocking him to the pavement, according to his mother’s account. Five men grabbed him, then stuffed a “cherry bomb” firecracker into his pants, she said.
It exploded, igniting his clothes. He ran home — his underpants aflame, his mother said. He screamed, “Help me! Help me! Help me!” He had second- and third-degree burns.
“I don’t think this is funny,” his mother, 47-year-old Thomasina Hartwell, said. “He could have been killed. He’s in a lot of pain.”
Paramedics took Hartwell to a hospital in an ambulance, and the North Charleston Police Department handled the call. Officers did not complete a report, however, and police officials were trying to determine why, agency spokesman Spencer Pryor said Thursday.
The victim’s mother told The Post and Courier that other residents reported that the same men were hurling fireworks at other neighborhood youth.
The city and county authorities that have jurisdiction in the area could not confirm that.
She described the suspects’ car as a white Chevrolet Malibu and said that her son knew one of the men.
As he recovered Thursday in the Joseph M. Still Burn Clinic at Trident Medical Center, Domenic Hartwell photographed his bandaged leg and posted the pictures on Facebook. He wrote that he was being put to sleep so that a doctor could tend to his limb.
He bemoaned his current state and expressed fury, vowing to avenge the attack. His leg might be injured, he said, “but I won’t (quit). Running that’s all I know. ... War tyme (sic).”
Hartwell has an arrest history starting two years ago, according to the State Law Enforcement Division. He has a conviction for marijuana possession in February and is on probation until late this year.
He also has felony arrests but no convictions on charges of armed robbery and possession of a stolen pistol, according to his SLED rap sheet.
Known on Facebook as “Domenic Cocainecowboy Hartwell,” he has been one of several Lowcountry residents featured on “Charleston Thug Life,” a website that points out potentially nefarious exploits on social media.
He’s depicted in Facebook photos holding wads of cash and wearing a necklace in the shape of marijuana leaves. He professed his faith in God and asked for prayers before a court appearance in early November on a marijuana charge.
He later praised God when a judge ordered him to probation. That allowed him to avoid jail and vote for President Barack Obama in the general election, he wrote.
After this week’s incident in which he said on Facebook that “a bomb shell blow up in my pocket,” doctors scraped dead skin off his leg in preparation for grafting procedures, his mother said.
“I good ... running around the hood,” he wrote in another post. “Building my strength back up.”
Regardless of her son’s past, Thomasina Hartwell called on the police to corral those accountable. She looks forward to the day when she can move away from Dorchester-Waylyn, a community known for high rates of drug crimes and violence.
She called 911 several times after her son ran to her “naked and on fire,” she said. For her, the violence came too close to home that night.
“I panicked,” she said. “I got very emotional. Nobody should have to go through this.”
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