An estimated 1,500 people were at a party where a Berkeley County teen was fatally shot Friday, yet no one seems to have seen a thing.
At a news conference Monday, community activists and friends of Ariel Morgan called for anyone with information about the 19-year-old's slaying to come forward.
"It's very important that the community get behind this crime because the community is the one that's going to solve this crime, the people who were there at that block party," said James Johnson, president of the Tri-County National Action Network, the local chapter of the civil rights organization founded by the Rev. Al Sharpton in 1991.
Morgan, a 2013 Stratford High School graduate and a nursing student at Francis Marion University, was one of five people shot around 12:30 a.m. on Tish Lane near Moncks Corner, where people were celebrating high school graduations. She died at the Medical University Hospital at 2:45 a.m.
"This young lady never committed any kind of crime," Johnson said. "(She was) an innocent person, trying to give back to society and her life was taken. She did everything right in life: She got an education, then she went to college, and she came home, and some thug who probably is not old enough to buy a gun shot and killed her and I'm angry. We will not rest until we catch these perpetrators."
Witnesses said the scene was chaotic when shots were fired. People fled, with many falling to the wet ground and hiding in muddy ditches.
The four other people who were hospitalized have not been identified, but Johnson said they are all alive.
The Berkeley County Sheriff's Office has provided no further information. An incident report had not been released, but the case is a top priority for the Berkeley County Sheriff's Office, authorities said.
"It's going to take a community to help solve this crime, along with the assistance of anyone who may have been at that party," Capt. Bobby Shuler said Monday. People are going to have to want to get involved."
Johnson said crimes are often not solved because people are afraid to "snitch."
"Ariel lost her life to a fight that was not hers," said Chynia Lewis, 19. "On behalf of (her friends), her mom, her little brother, anything that you know, any details, anything matters to us. Snitches don't matter at this point."
Charles Tyler, vice president of the Tri-County National Action Network, said, "When your friend is the one that's killing your friend, you have to throw that (snitch) law away. Your best friend is laying on a table somewhere and we're still holding onto something."
Monica Jefferson, founder of a support group and mother of Malcolm C. Jefferson II, who was fatally shot on his 18th birthday Oct. 8 in West Ashley, said, "Sometimes you have to put yourself in a mother's place, such as mine, and if this were your child that was shot by some treacherous person out there, you would want someone to come forward. We don't need to be silent anymore."
Johnson reiterated that Crime Stoppers tips can be anonymous. "Any information somebody knows is not bad information," he said. "You never know what the police department can tap from that. If you just hear somebody talking about something, call the police about it. Somebody definitely knows something. They just need to come forward, and to know that they can do that anonymously if necessary."
Johnson called for people to donate to Crime Stoppers so that the usual reward of $1,000 for information leading to an arrest can be increased.
"People have a tendency to talk when money's on the table, so we want to raise as much money as we can to give to Crime Stoppers," he said.
About 50 friends of Morgan's also attended the news conference. A few said they saw several guns at the party.
Hours before her death, Morgan, who worked at Rack Room Shoes, tweeted that she hoped there wouldn't be trouble at the party.
"Some of us want our life's and just want to have a good and safe time," she wrote on Twitter.
Another friend tweeted, "Am I the only one who feels like something bad is gonna happen tonight? I can't shake the feeling."
Friend Johnnie Lynch, 19, who arranged a vigil in Morgan's memory Saturday, remembered the nursing student and former cheerleader on Monday as "an angel."
"She was always there for you. She was always the loudmouth in the group. She was always laughing. She always had something to say, but never had anything negative to say. She just always had to put her two cents in."
Johnson said he also plans to put together a campaign to ask Gov. Nikki Haley's office for a task force on illegal guns.
"Our community is saturated with guns," he said. "We have to find out where these guns are coming from. It's not going to stop until we get involved. If we don't do something about this, it's going to get worse and worse."
People with information in the shooting should call the Berkeley County Sheriff's Office at 843-761-4412 or Crime Stoppers at 843-554-1111.
Reach Brenda Rindge at 937-5713 or @brindge on Twitter.
Johnnie Lynch, a friend of shooting victim Atriel Morgan, speaks about his friend at a news conference Monday at Middleton Park in Goose Creek.×
Johnnie Lynch, a friend of shooting victim Ariel Morgan, speaks about his late friend as loved ones gathered at a news conference Monday afternoon at Middleton Park in Goose Creek.×
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