Stretch of I-26 in N. Charleston scene of several recent shootings
Two cars raced up to Albert Shabazz Grant as he steered a Mercury sedan along Interstate 26 on Monday with a young lady friend in the passenger seat.
Breakdown of each shooting
1 June, 20, 2011: A 40-year-old man dies in his car after he is struck by gunfire and crashes on Interstate 26 near Eagle Drive, shutting down traffic for more than six hours.2 Oct. 23, 2011: A 28-year-old man is found dead and his passenger wounded inside a car on Interstate 26 at Montague Avenue. Police determine both were shot.3Jan. 1, 2012: A fight at a nightclub on Ashley Phosphate Road early on New Year’s Day prompts a gunman to open fire on the occupants of another car along Interstate 26 eastbound. The wounded driver pulls over on Tanger Outlet Drive and calls police.4 April 27: Three people tell police a gunman in an SUV fired at their Buick sedan on Interstate 26 near Montague Avenue after they left a club and a restaurant on Ashley Phosphate Road. Gunfire misses them, but rounds strike the Buick.5Aug. 7: Two people are wounded on Interstate 26 near the Remount Road exit when a gunman with long dreadlocks leans from a nearby sedan and fires at least two rounds at their vehicle. Their injuries aren’t life-threatening.6 Oct. 27: Officers arrest a 20-year-old man after he is seen tossing a handgun onto Interstate 26 from a car near the Aviation Avenue exit. Police recover a 9 mm pistol and find spent shell casings in his car. Three people tell police the suspect fired several shots at them near International Boulevard. 7 Feb. 14: A 51-year-old Ladson man tells police a man shot at his car on Interstate 26 near Ashley Phosphate Road in a road-rage incident after they cut each other off around noon. The driver is not injured but one round strikes his roof and another shatters his passenger window. 8 Feb. 18: A 22- year-old man tells police somebody shot him in the leg while he was driving on Interstate 26 near the U.S. Highway 78 exit. He says a car sped up beside him and someone started firing at his vehicle.
One car, a black vehicle of some sort, edged into the emergency lane and pulled up alongside Grant in the mid-afternoon traffic. Gunfire blazed from the stranger’s car, peppering Grant’s sedan.
Bullets tore through the doors and hood of the Mercury, with one round lodging in Grant’s leg.
This is the account Grant relayed to North Charleston police after he showed up seeking treatment for his wound at Trident Medical Center a little after 3 p.m.
Investigators searched the roadway along I-26 but could find no shell casings or other evidence of a shooting, police spokesman Spencer Pryor said.
The case is at least the eighth shooting incident that has occurred along the stretch of I-26 through North Charleston since June 2011. The shootings killed two people and left five wounded, police said.
Police have arrested one shooting suspect and have possible suspects in two other shootings, but the remainder are unsolved, police said.
North Charleston Deputy Police Chief Scott Deckard said his city likely has borne the brunt of these shootings because it has the most real estate along I-26 and it is densely developed. The shootings have been sporadic and appear to have targeted specific individuals, often occurring overnight after the clubs have let out, he said.
“There is nothing to indicate these are random,” he said. “We found in most cases there has been some personal link, whether it be an acquaintance or through some previous altercation.”
North Charleston certainly isn’t alone in this phenomenon. A drive-by shooting was reported just this week along Interstate 77 in Richland County, leaving one man wounded. And similar interstate shootings have been reported in recent months from Arkansas to Michigan.
Monday’s case in North Charleston illustrates the challenges detectives face in investigating crimes where the victims, suspects and witnesses all are moving targets.
The crimes sometimes aren’t discovered until the victims pull over somewhere else, leaving investigators to perform a scavenger hunt for evidence on a heavily traveled artery with lots of woods, tall grass and ditches along the way.
Deckard said the cases can be difficult, but not impossible to solve. Police have recovered evidence in these crimes, and video surveillance footage has aided in confirming stories and narrowing the search for suspects, he said.
“The challenge is just the nature of the event itself,” he said. “Most of these cases involve moving people shooting at another vehicle. The difficult part can be finding witnesses if no one calls it in at the time it occurs.”
Police are working on Grant’s case, but they have not identified suspects. A police report does not indicate whether the 22-year-old Summerville man gave police any indication of a possible motive for the attack.
Grant, who has three previous marijuana convictions, could not be reached for comment this week.
The first shooting along the stretch in recent years was reported in June 2011, when 40-year-old Maurice Youngblood of Adams Run was gunned down near Eagle Drive, shutting down traffic for more than six hours. He died at the scene, and no arrests have been made in the killing.
Another killing on the interstate occurred four months later, followed by four more gun-related incidents in 2012, police records show. So far this year, two shootings on I-26 have occurred just this month.
“The safety of the public is always our concern,” Deckard said. “We wish we wouldn’t have things like this happen, but unfortunately we do. Drivers should be aware of who is around them and they should contact us if they see something suspicious.”
Reaction to the incidents was mixed Wednesday among those who commute along the road.
A saleswoman from Goose Creek, who would give her name only as Tammy, said she travels the stretch often and is quite concerned by the gun violence and the potential for an innocent motorist to be shot. But she is not surprised, given the level of discourtesy she has seen on the interstate.
“Nobody’s nice out there,” she said. “Everybody’s in a hurry to go no place, and they are rude about it.”
Others just shrugged off the incidents as something that likely would not affect them in any way. They said they have seen rude behavior and poor driving on the interstate, but nothing violent.
“Once in a while I see someone get cut off and then flip someone off,” said Bob Dotolo, a glass worker from Goose Creek. “But I’m from Massachusetts, where that sort of thing is pretty common.”Reach Glenn Smith at 937-5556 or Twitter.com/glennsmith5.