As many as 60 teens were roaming Charleston streets attacking pedestrians and drivers early Sunday, witnesses told police dispatchers in 911 calls released Tuesday.
All the teens were black, according to witnesses, and all but one of the people attacked were white. Still, it’s unclear if the attacks were racially motivated or sparked by the unrest in Baltimore, which followed the recent shooting death of Walter Scott, a black man, by a white North Charleston police officer.
Investigators haven’t yet determined a motive, according to Charleston Police Department spokesman Charles Francis.
James Johnson, who was at the forefront of local protests after Scott’s shooting death, said he had not heard any explanation for the teens’ behavior.
“The Walter Scott incident is fresh in their minds, and then there’s Baltimore,” he said. “But there’s no telling. It could be just spur of the moment. I’m hoping we can find out. Whatever it is, we’ve got to go to the root of the problem so it doesn’t happen again.”
The teens came out of a party at the YWCA on Coming Street about 12:30 a.m. and hit the streets. Groups not associated with the YWCA rent the facility.
The motto of the YWCA is “Empowering Women and Eliminating Racism.” The organization sponsors the annual local celebration of Martin Luther King Jr., who preached nonviolence.
Garcia Williams, the YWCA’s director, did not return several messages asking if she had learned anything about why the teens broke out in violence after the party or who organized the event. Dot Scott, the leader of the Charleston chapter of the NAACP, said she had not heard anything to explain why the teens went on a rampage but was shocked by it.
“I have no idea whatsoever,” she said. “It just seems unusual that folks would attack people that way. It’s atypical.”
The number of teens on the prowl is bigger than initially estimated, and the 911 calls released Tuesday show some of the terror the mob caused.
A young woman called 911 to report the chaos outside her apartment at Vanderhorst and Coming streets.
“There’s like 50 black kids outside, and they’re getting into a fight,” she told the operator. “Oh, my God, there’s blood everywhere. ... Look at all that blood.”
Another young woman called to say she was standing at the intersection.
“They’re just in the street screaming and yelling,” she said. “I want to say 60 people.”
Terror could be heard in the voices of many of the callers, including a man who called from his car and said he was being blocked by about 50 teens.
“They just smacked my car,” he told the operator. “I’m flooring it in reverse. This is just ridiculous. ... I’m getting the hell out of here, man. They just smacked another car.”
He said a group began beating a man.
“They’ve got a dude down on the ground,” he said. “There’s like five of them punching the dude. ... There’s a guy taunting me. I couldn’t make the green light because he was standing in the intersection taunting me. It’s pretty terrifying, man.”
Officers said they were so overwhelmed by calls they couldn’t handle all of them.
They released several reports that detail attacks:
A pizza delivery man was attacked in his car about 1:15 a.m. on Sumter Street. A group blocked him from crossing Rutledge Avenue. He reported that a male attacker jumped on the hood of his car, and after he opened his door, others began punching him.
The latest happened to a man getting out of a cab on Rutledge Avenue about 2 a.m. He said a large group of males and females under 20 years old approached him and his girlfriend. He was punched several times.
A group beat two men in the face while the victims were walking along Vanderhorst Street about 1 a.m. One teen was arrested Monday in that attack, and more arrests are possible.
Jordan Q. Hall, 17, of Chapel Street, a ninth-grader at Burke High School, faces two counts of second-degree assault and battery by mob.
The felony charge is punishable by three to 25 years in prison. The elevated charges are related to the suspect being part of a mob causing “serious bodily injury,” according to the S.C. Code of Laws.
One man’s nose was broken, causing severe bleeding, according to an incident report.
Another victim was diagnosed with a facial fracture near his left eye and suffered swelling and bruising to his head after Hall repeatedly struck him with closed fists, according to the arrest affidavit. He identified Hall in a six-person photographic lineup.
Judge Linda Lombard said that Hall has a serious criminal history and set his bail at $100,000. He had no family present at the bond hearing.
Photos show teens running and pounding on cars.
An incident report said the event at the YWCA was a birthday party. A 16-year-old black teen said he also was beaten and robbed by a group on Vanderhorst Street after attending the event.
He said police dispersed the crowd after it let out and that someone in one of the groups later put a gun to his head. He reported being punched and kicked and robbed of an iPhone. He said his mother picked him up about 1:30 a.m. on Rutledge Avenue.
State law treats mob violence seriously.
Under the heading “Lynching,” it details the three degrees of crime and punishment, which range from up to a year in prison to a minimum of 30 years in the case of a victim’s death.
A “mob” is defined as two or more people who act together for the premeditated purpose of committing an act of violence.
The law instructs law enforcement and the solicitor in the jurisdiction to “act as speedily as possible to apprehend and identify the members of the mob and bring them to trial.”
The statute grants the solicitor “summary power to conduct any investigation deemed necessary in order to apprehend the members of a mob.” The solicitor can subpoena witnesses and take testimony under oath.
Cleve O’Quinn and Melissa Boughton contributed to this report. Reach Dave Munday at 937-5553.