Family of drive-by shooting victim seeks answers, justice

Dena Brown. File/Provided

Dena Brown’s fate was sealed, her sister said, the minute she turned onto Ashley Phosphate Road from Cross County Road in North Charleston early Sunday morning.

The 36-year-old mother of three was on her way home from a Mother’s Day celebration with her own mother when she was mistakenly shot in a drive-by because she was driving the same type of car involved in an earlier shootout.

Family and friends are still shocked and confused.

“I can’t understand what happened to her and I can’t understand why,” said Brown’s sister, Cathy Colebrooke, of Summerville. “This was not just a nobody, she was a mother, a daughter, a sister, a wife.”

Officers responded about 1:30 a.m. Sunday to the Exxon station at 2330 Ashley Phosphate Road and found a 2010 Chrysler 300 teetering on a wall leading to the Denny’s parking lot, according to an incident report released Monday.

The location was about five miles from where Brown, a Goose Creek resident, left from her mother’s home.

An officer attempted to give first aid to Brown, who was unresponsive and had been shot in the right side of her neck. Colebrooke said in a Monday phone interview that her sister also was shot a second time.

An officer wrote in the report that Brown “had already lost a lot of blood, which was covering the front of her shirt, the driver’s seat, and the middle console.”

She was taken by Charleston County EMS to Medical University Hospital for surgery, but died at 2:50 p.m. Sunday from a gunshot wound, according to Deputy Coroner Kimberly Rhoton.

“We had just finished eating crabs and having drinks with her girlfriends and our family,” Colebrooke said. “The next thing we know, she’s (been shot).”

Officers had been called earlier to the area of Lawrence Street and Constitution Avenue after several people reported two vehicles chasing and shooting each other, according to police spokesman Spencer Pryor.

Witnesses told officers that a dark vehicle was chasing a silver car and turned west onto Dorchester Road. Dispatch continued to receive calls from residents who saw occupants of the vehicles still shooting at each other as they sped down Dorchester Road, Pryor said.

The chase ultimately led to Ashley Phosphate, in the area of Interstate 26.

Initial reports indicate the silver car, a Chrysler 300, exited Ashley Phosphate onto I-26 East. Occupants of the second vehicle, possibly a Blue Saturn Vue, observed an unrelated Chrysler 300, Brown’s vehicle, on Ashley Phosphate near Northwoods Boulevard and fired four rounds into the driver’s side door/window, striking the driver at least once, Pryor said.

Officers were able to stop the original fleeing Chrysler 300 on I-26 and detained four people. None of them were charged, Pryor said.

No arrests have been made yet in connection with the victim’s shooting, he said, and the homicide investigation is ongoing.

Colebrooke said her family wants to make sure there is justice for her sister and said they hope to offer a reward soon. They have started a social media hashtag, #justicefordena, and many have changed their Facebook profile pictures to an image of her.

“She meant the world to a lot of people,” Colebrooke said. “My sister was full of life, all she wanted to do was live and enjoy it. ... (She) is not just going to be another sick statistic.” She added that “somebody has to know, somebody has to have seen who was in that dark-colored car.”

Brown worked as a quality specialist at iQor in North Charleston for nine years, her sister said. Her death is North Charleston’s third homicide this year. The first occurred in January at the same Exxon where Brown was found.

“She didn’t deserve this,” Colebrooke said. “She was just going home.”

Brown’s family is grieving, some are angry, some numb and others still in disbelief, but Colebrooke said her sister’s children, two 10-year-olds and a 16-year-old, will never be the same.

“It will never be a Mother’s Day for them again,” she said. “Every time it comes around, they will cringe.”

Anyone with information about the shooting can contact Crime Stoppers at 554-1111.

Cleve O’Quinn contributed to this report.