A night of celebration at a Hudson Town nightclub turned tragic early Sunday when a 23-year-old woman came face-to-face with possible members of a Colleton County street gang, authorities said.
From what Dorchester County sheriff’s deputies can tell, Sierra Denise Truesdale was an innocent bystander when she was gunned down outside of the Starlight Lounge just outside of St. George. The Trident Tech student was celebrating her 23rd birthday when she was killed.
Two other people were also wounded. A gunman had not been publicly identified in the shooting Monday afternoon.
Witnesses reported seeing known members of a gang that goes by the name the “Cowboys” at the club that night, an incident report states.
The group usually causes trouble, one man told deputies, but everyone appeared to be having a good time. Then, the men covered their faces with American flag bandannas, walked outside the club and fired off several rounds into a crowd of partygoers.
The incident is an example of why Walterboro Public Safety and the Colleton County Sheriff’s Office are combining their efforts to crack down on gang violence.
“We just want to do what we have to do to protect all the innocent people who are affected by this,” Walterboro Public Safety Maj. Ken Dasen said.
The Cowboys is one of Walterboro’s primary gangs, Dasen said, having been linked to rising gun violence, property crimes and thefts in that area.
Most of its known members grew up together in the city’s East Side Acres neighborhood, Dasen said. Although Dasen said the gang hasn’t thought to extend their reach beyond Colleton County, aspects of the Hudson Town shooting are consistent with the “Cowboys,” including the carrying of bandannas. Colleton detectives are working with Dorchester County investigators on the case, he said.
Walterboro and Colleton County authorities aim to combat all gang violence, not just the “Cowboys,” Dasen said. Authorities hold a “zero tolerance” for gang members who violate the law, he said.
“When a gang member pulls the trigger, the bullet is meant to kill someone; whether it is who the gang member meant to shoot or an innocent bystander, the result is the same. We are not going to stand by as gangs wreak havoc on the lives of our citizens and visitors,” Dasen said in a news release detailing the crackdown.
Dorchester County sheriff’s deputies are still investigating whether the Walterboro gang was behind the events that unfolded in the Hudson Town community, Lt. Tony Phinney said.
Truesdale took a bullet to her side.
Friends attempted to race her to a nearby hospital, but a male driver stopped and waved down a deputy at the intersection of Legare Road and Raysor Street just before 2 a.m.
Truesdale was lying motionless, bleeding from her mouth and nose in the back seat of a black Chevrolet, deputies said. A woman was hunched over her, yelling for the 23-year-old to wake up.
A deputy pulled that woman from the vehicle by her waist in order to help a weakening Truesdale.
She didn’t appear to be breathing, but a faint pulse indicated that she was still alive, deputies said. The signs of life didn’t last, however. Truesdale was soon pronounced dead by paramedics at the scene, deputies said.
A burgundy SUV pulled up to the intersection and a man yelled that he too was transporting a gunshot victim from the club, an incident report states.
A deputy asked the man to pull over, but instead, the man sped away into the night toward Legare Road.
Two people later turned up at a nearby hospital for treatment of wounds related to the shooting, deputies said.
One man told deputies that he heard two shots, then felt blood dripping from his upper shoulder. Doctors treated a second woman for gunshot wounds to her right forearm and midsection.
Truesdale’s mother, 38-year-old Tamika Myers, shed tears for her slain daughter the day after the shooting while grieving at a Hanahan home with other family members.
Her daughter didn’t deserve to die this way, Myers said.
Truesdale had her whole life ahead of her and was studying at Trident Technical College to become a medical assistant, Myers said. She baby-sat frequently, and was known for doing hair.
“To know Sierra, was to love Sierra. We’re all going to need some closure. She went through the struggle, but she never judged. She knew I loved her, and I know she loved me,” Myers said.
If anything, Myers said, she found comfort in knowing that her last words with her daughter were those of love.
Myers called Truesdale at 12:03 a.m. to wish her daughter a happy birthday. They spoke again around 1 a.m. when Truesdale told her mother that she was having a good time and that she just wanted to say that she loved her.
Shots rang out at the Starlight Lounge less than an hour later.
The establishment was linked to another shooting death on June 9 when 27-year-old Edward Raymone Clayton Holmes of Acebasin Parkway in Jacksonboro was shot in the head. That incident took place at a St. George gas station on Jim Bilton Boulevard near I-95 in a fight that extended from the club.
Friends rushed the wounded man to Colleton Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead.
Reach Christina Elmore at 937-5908.