Interactive graphic

Interactive graphic

For an interactive map showing homicides in the Charleston area since 2001, go to postandcourier.com/homicides.

Residents in downtown Charleston struggled to grasp Wednesday why someone would hurt the young man they often saw sitting on the front porch of his Congress Street home.

Brandon Bennett, 18, usually greeted neighbors as they walked by. He helped them out when he could.

Last week, he saw Tony Frost's grandfather struggling to carry groceries, so he snatched the bags and carried them inside the old man's house.

Bennett kept out of trouble. He had never been arrested here.

"Nobody around here has anything bad to say about him," said Frost, 41, who lives three houses from Bennett. "He was a young kid. There's just too much of this foolishness."

Someone broke into Bennett's home at 142 Congress St. around 8 a.m. Wednesday and stabbed the young man before his father chased the assailant away. He died at 8:21 a.m. at Medical University Hospital, Charleston County Deputy Coroner Kimberly Rhoton said.

His death marked the fifth homicide this year in Charleston and the 26th in the tri-county area. All five Charleston slayings occurred downtown.

Wednesday's crime started as a burglary when the intruder entered the home through a window, but it somehow turned into a homicide, according to Charles Francis, spokesman for the Charleston Police Department. Detectives think Bennett and his attacker knew each other, Francis said, but they did not immediately name any suspects or say what might have motivated the burglar to break in.

After the home invasion, Bennett's father, Darryl Bennett, ran outside, and a neighbor called 911.

"He chased him out of the house," the neighbor said of the father and the attacker, according to the call. "He went back to check on his son."

Darryl Bennett soon picked up the telephone. Gasping for air, he pleaded with dispatchers to send paramedics.

"Someone came in and stabbed my son," he said. "My son is right here dying. He has a stab wound in his chest."

Two hours later, as Darryl Bennett wept and hugged family members on the quiet, shaded roadside outside his house, crime-scene investigators examined the home for clues.

The investigators focused on a side window that they dusted with powder and lifted fingerprints from. The screen over the glass had been cut around the window frame.

Linda Rowley patted Darryl Bennett, her next-door neighbor, on his back as he buried his face into a relative's chest and cried.

Rowley, 54, and other residents of the community just west of King Street and north of the Septima P. Clark Parkway described the family as law-abiding and respectful. They're not the folks that Rowley expected to fall victim to such an attack, she said.

Rowley saw the young man sitting on his porch the day before he died and enjoying the 90-degree weather. He usually carried a basketball with him, she said.

"I've never seen him say a cross word to anybody," Rowley said. "He just smiles and says hi. He's always polite."

Rowley sensed no disturbance Wednesday morning until she walked outside and saw the police cars choking Congress Street in front of her house.

Across the street, Frost surveyed the scene and shook his head at another crime that he said would have been unheard of while he was growing up in the community.

He noted a drive-by shooting April 28 at 132 Congress St. in which Tor Akil Gregory, 22, suffered several bullet wounds to his neck, a shoulder, a leg and a foot. Gregory survived.

Then on May 8, 59-year-old Ronald Robinson was fatally shot after masked men barged into his home on nearby King Street.

Brandon Bennett had a lot going for him, Frost said. He had graduated from high school, Frost said, and was attending Trident Technical College.

The two saw each other Tuesday, when they talked about creating a website for Frost's business.

The young man didn't talk about gangs or drugs as some youths in downtown communities do, Frost said.

When they parted, Frost told him to "watch yourself out here," Frost said.

"I got ya, big bro," he replied.

Frost thought the young man would be safe inside his own home.

"If they broke in there and killed him," Frost said, "they're cowards for that."

Reach Andrew Knapp at 937-5414 or twitter.com/offlede.