North Charleston is in the midst of one of its deadliest stretches in recent memory after its fifth fatal shooting in as many days.
With five dead in the four incidents, the recent shootings marked the deadliest five-day stretch in North Charleston since 2006, when a man killed five family members on a single day, The Post and Courier’s homicide database showed. It also was the first time since at least 2001, when the newspaper began tracking slayings, that the city has recorded four separate instances of deadly violence over five days.
Councilman Ron Brinson, who represents North Charleston’s 4th District, said it’s important not to get caught up in statistics and that he prefers to focus on the core issues driving the violence.
"It’s horrible," Brinson said. "One (death) is too many. It’s a problem of many causes but we tend to get stuck in the count. In the last five days, we’ve seen gambling, drugs and guns engender this violence."
The proliferation of firearms in the community is of particular concern to the councilman.
"You have guns in the hands of very young people," Brinson said. "We know that violence begets violence."
The shootings come at a time when deadly incidents seemed to have abated from their record-setting pace in previous years. With 35 homicides, 2017 was the deadliest year in the city’s history, breaking the record of 32 homicides set in 2016.
There were 11 homicides in North Charleston between Jan. 1 and June 30 this year compared to 23 over the same period last year, according to The Post and Courier’s homicide database.
That pace accelerated beginning Saturday when 27-year-old Aldean Wright was shot to death at 1919 Burton Lane. The shooting was followed by three others in two separate incidents on Sunday.
Harold Hutzler Jr., 54, was killed in the first of Sunday’s shootings, which happened at 9000 Salamander Road. That night, two males were killed when someone opened fire on their pickup truck in the Park Circle area. They were identified by the Charleston County Coroner's Office on Wednesday as Jascere Stokes, 21, and Brenden Wright, 22, both of Charleston.
For the next two days, all was quiet.
Then officers got a report of shots fired just before 4 a.m. Wednesday at 2100 Van Buren Ave. in the city’s Russelldale neighborhood.
Once on scene, they found a man suffering multiple gunshot wounds, said Spencer Pryor, a police spokesman.
The victim was identified as 38-year-old North Charleston resident Dewitt Cohen, according to the Charleston County Coroner’s Office. Cohen died at the scene.
The latest shooting brings North Charleston’s 2018 homicide count to 15 of the total 38 in the tri-county area, according to the newspaper’s homicide database.
Councilman Mike Brown, who represents the city’s 1st District, said he wants residents to know that city officials and law enforcement are working tirelessly on multiple fronts but that in order to make a difference, the public has to partner with the city.
North Charleston officials have organized mentoring programs and summer basketball in an effort to keep youth off the streets, Brown said. Ongoing programs, like the city’s Small, Disadvantaged, Minority Business Program, aim to lift up communities in need and bolster their economic cores.
Among other factors, poverty is a perennial driver of violence, the councilman said. While high economic status doesn’t make any person in the community immune from crime, increasing the wealth in a community can help mitigate some of the drivers behind crimes of desperation.
In the coming weeks and months, Brown encouraged residents to keep looking for ways to partner with law enforcement and city officials.
"We’re going to the streets," he said. "We’re out there."