A week before his grandson was gunned down in Hanahan, Elder James Johnson scoured North Charleston's streets hoping to pull the young man away from the destructive lifestyle he had been living.
Johnson's phone calls went unanswered and he never found the 19-year-old. He received word Friday that his worst fears had come true.
Now, the community activist said, he can't help but wonder if there's any more he could have said or done to save the life of Terrence Kendall McNeil Jr.
Details surrounding McNeil's death were few Monday and a suspect had not been named.
According to an incident report released by Hanahan police, authorities found McNeil slumped in a 2014 Dodge Charger that had crashed into a home on Old Point Road around 4:30 a.m. Friday. He was bleeding from gunshot wounds to his head and body, police said.
McNeil was breathing when help arrived, but just barely. He later died at the scene, authorities said.
According to investigators, a Glock pistol and five spent shell casings were found inside the car, police said.
Hanahan police Lt. Michael Fowler said investigators have heard that the shooting was a gang-related retaliation. He would not discuss what McNeil could have done for someone to want him dead.
As a police chaplain and leader of the local National Action Network, a group trying to reverse gun violence, Johnson said he's coming to terms with the fact that he wasn't able to save his own kin from the violence he's combatted for years.
Things could have ended differently had McNeil adhered to the teachings of his parents and loved ones, Johnson said.
"He had all the opportunities to have a good life, but his choices were his choices," Johnson said Monday.
McNeil graduated from North Charleston High School and could have gone to college if he wanted, family said. Instead, the streets steered McNeil down a different path.
In November 2012, when he was 17, McNeil staggered into Medical University Hospital with a gunshot wound to his neck and face. He was arrested after North Charleston investigators alleged he received the wounds while attempting to rob a man on Gordon Street.
Johnson said his family had hoped the close call would have been enough to prompt McNeil into changing his life for the better. But their pleas fell on deaf ears.
"He said he wasn't ready to leave the streets," Johnson said.
He suspected that his grandson's death was an act of retaliation. For what, he said he didn't know.
Whether McNeil had a hand in his own death or not, Johnson said the tragedy that hit his family is evidence of increasing violence throughout the Charleston area. McNeil was one of three people shot to death over the holiday weekend in the the tri-county area. Two of which died on the Fourth of July.
His grandson's death won't deter Johnson from the work that needs to be done to save his community, he said. Johnson plans to meet with area mayors and lawmakers later this week to discuss the issue.
"Nobody's immune from the crime that's in these streets," he said.
Reach Christina Elmore at 937-5908 or at Twitter.com/celmorePC.
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