‘We’re not getting any justice’

“I survived, but he took my life away,” Sabrina Green said.

Sabrina Green rolled out of bed when she heard the knocks. 

It was almost 5 a.m. on New Year’s Day 2014, and someone was at the front door of her North Charleston home. She thought it was her son, back from a night of celebrating. He was always forgetting his keys.

But as she reached for the knob, bullets flew through the door. One passed through her thigh. One lodged in her forehead.

She stumbled backward and landed on a coffee table, where her Bible lay open to Psalm 23. Blood spilled onto its verses.

“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me.”

Those words were her savior, she said, along with the door where a dangling cross greeted all comers. The door had slowed the bullet enough so that it stopped short of her brain, sparing her more serious long-term damage or death. Together, they fought off the evil that had arrived on her doorstep.

She lived, she said, thanks to her faith. But her ordeal since then has been hell. Beneath the small scar on her forehead is an unseen emotional ache for how things used to be and a fleeting trust in the justice system.

She is a woman beset by frequent headaches and seizures. They sap joy from her family time and jeopardize her return to a career in elder care.

She is a 38-year-old mother who sees her oldest son in jail and her youngest in a hospital bed. Montreal Ford, the son Green expected to see after opening the door, is accused of retaliating against her attacker in a shooting that claimed another woman’s life. Her only other child was stricken with an illness that left him brain-damaged and bedridden.

She is a crime victim who doubts justice will ever be realized. Police don’t plan to pursue their case against Jimmie Harris, her alleged assailant, until he serves an unrelated federal prison sentence. It could be more than four decades until Harris answers for two of the three shootings that gripped North Charleston communities with fear that day.

Of the three women shot on the holiday, Green was the only survivor.

“Everything is just gone,” she said, recently giving her first public accounting of the events. “I can’t go back to work. I can’t just go drive somewhere when I want to. ... I survived, but he took my life away.”

Thoughts of her dilemmas creep up on her every day, and she cries.

“The tears,” she said, “they just come out.”

Crime never was a stranger in Green’s neighborhood, Dorchester Terrace.

The night before she was shot, Green and her husband, Rickey Fyall, listened to gunshots near their single-story rental house on Aintree Avenue — other people’s way of ringing in the new year.

Green tuned it out and went to sleep. She needed to be fresh for work the next day at The Palms, a retirement community in Mount Pleasant. She had just taken a new position as a medication technician, a step up from her old role as a nursing assistant.

The knocks came at 4:50 a.m. Jan. 1, 2014. Fyall usually opened the door at the house, but Green was the only one awake. Her alarm was set to go off soon anyway.

Wearing only her underwear and a T-shirt, she walked to the door.

“Montreal?” she said. “Is that you?”

“Yeah,” a man’s voice answered from the other side. “It’s Montreal.”

She believed the voice.

Her memories of what happened next are hazy. Bullets came at her, piercing about six holes in the door.

The gunfire shook Fyall from bed. He dropped to the floor and crawled to his 16-year-old stepson’s room. The boy was fine.

Fyall felt a burning in his left side, looked down and found a graze wound from a bullet. But he was OK.

He thought his wife was all right, too. She wasn’t screaming or crying.

But when he flicked on the living room light, he found her face down on the marble coffee table. He lifted her head and saw blood coming from a hole in the upper right part of her forehead. She was still alive. She was still awake.

“I kept trying to get up,” she said. “But Rickey kept pushing me back down, saying, ‘You can’t move. You can’t move.’”

Green’s head throbbed with pain. She didn’t know why.

Paramedics slid Green onto a spinal board and carried her into the cold winter night. She saw blue lights and police officers.

“They were just asking me a bunch of questions, if I had any enemies,” she said. “Just crazy questions I didn’t know the answers to.”

The officers separated her youngest son and her husband. Neither was allowed to ride in the ambulance.

“They were treating us like suspects,” Fyall, 57, said. “Then all of a sudden, they got another call, and it seemed like they just abandoned the crime scene.”

It was 5:40 a.m. Almost 2 miles away on Niagara Street, another woman, Janet Royal, 52, was lying behind a door. She bled from a gunshot wound in her chest. She would not survive.

An hour passed. More gunfire.

At 6:40 a.m., bullets riddled the front windows of a home on Ventura Drive. Debra Martin, 49, fell dead on the living room floor.

Green, meanwhile, wound up in Medical University Hospital’s intensive care unit alongside her sister-in-law, 56-year-old Roslin Fyall.

More than two weeks earlier, on Dec. 17, 2013, Fyall and her fiance were walking out of their Grayson Street home on her way to work around 10 p.m. when someone in a passing car opened fire. She and Green ended up in beds next to each other, each with a bullet wound in her forehead.

Green woke up five days later.

She was hooked to a ventilator. Staples arced over her hairline from ear to ear, sealing the cut that surgeons had made to remove the bullet. She was bald. The doctors had shaved off the hairdo she had gotten just before the shooting.

She wanted to go home, but the police came. They took pictures. They asked questions. They told her that two other women had been shot that night. Both had died.

“I was just thinking, ‘Who goes around shooting random women like that?’” she said. “I was scared. I didn’t want to go home after that.”

Green left the hospital a few days later and returned to the house only to pick up clothes and some other things.

She and her family moved to West Ashley. She went about her days wondering if someone was following her. She sought counseling, but the fear lingered.

She leaned on medication to cope with the headaches.

She heard that the police had suspects. Hours before the authorities announced their findings in May 2014, she learned that one of them was her son.

The police alleged that Ford had fought with Harris at a nightclub on New Year’s Eve. They said Harris later went to Ford’s home and fired through the door, hitting Green.

Ford caught wind of the attack. Hoping to avenge his mother’s injuries, he went to a home and fatally shot Harris’ stepmother, Royal, detectives said.

Harris then got bad information on who had killed Royal, police spokesman Spencer Pryor said recently.

Continuing the tide of violence, Harris shot into Martin’s house, killing her, police said. He thought someone there was to blame for his stepmother’s death, the police said, but he was wrong.

Just when Green thought things couldn’t get worse after her son’s murder arrest, things got worse.

Less than two months passed. On Independence Day, her sister-in-law — the one she had been hospitalized with — died. Roslin Fyall never woke up from a coma, and the police have not found her killer.

Green’s seizures started in December. Sometimes, a bad headache would hint at one coming. Other times, convulsions would throw her suddenly to the floor.

The most recent bout landed her in a hospital last month.

She can’t drive.

She can’t work.

She can’t always enjoy moments with the 2-year-old niece she cares for. On a recent day, Green cradled her own head in her hands. The toddler walked up and handed her a pill bottle.

“I just need something because it’s starting to hurt,” she said. “I need to catch it before it gets bad.”

Not long after she started having seizures, an ulcer burned a hole through her youngest son’s stomach. The teenager, Raishaun, suffered a heart attack, and the flow of oxygen to his brain was cut off.

A nurse by his side, the teen now lies in a hospital bed at Green’s home, occasionally able to muster a laugh. He says nothing and moves little.

Green and her husband envision him getting better. Some day. 

“We’re struggling, but we’re making it,” Rickey Fyall said. “We’re still not complaining.”

The couple doubt Ford’s guilt. They listened to a detective during a preliminary hearing for Ford and heard little evidence, they said.

Eager to fight the charges, Ford wrote his own court motion asking for a speedy trial. Last month, his attorney, Michael O’Neal, filed a request for a judge to dismiss the case, arguing that he has been deprived of that prompt date in court.

“I’m just ready to get busy and try this case,” O’Neal said.

They paid close attention when Harris was sentenced to 45 years in prison for shooting and wounding a federal witness in an unrelated case from Walterboro. Harris agreed to accept the penalty if he doesn’t get more time in Green’s attempted murder and Martin’s murder.

But Harris may not even face those charges until he leaves federal prison.

Pryor, the police spokesman, said investigators don’t plan to serve him with arrest warrants “until he serves his sentence.” Ninth Circuit Solicitor Scarlett Wilson did not respond to multiple requests for comment about whether she has the same plan.

If it holds true, the arrests in the New Year’s Day shootings will mean little to Green.

“I don’t feel it’s fair to me or the other ladies,” she said. “We’re not getting any justice.”

Green wonders if she will live long enough to see someone held responsible for the pain she has endured.

In the meantime, the same cross will hang on her door. She will still consult the blood-stained pages of the same Bible.

But when someone knocks, she will wonder whether evil lurks on the other side.

Reach Andrew Knapp at 843-937-5414 or twitter.com/offlede.

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