'Bad blood' results in Summerville teen's death

Justin Smoot

Wade Spees // The Post and Courier

Wearing an orange detention center jumpsuit, Anthony Willis Jr. appears by video for his bond hearing at the Dorchester County Judicial Center on Tuesday.

SUMMERVILLE -- Karen Washington planned to do a little dance later this month at her son's high school graduation. Now she's planning his funeral.

Justin Jamal Smoot, 18, of Kimmerman Lane in Summerville was gunned down in broad daylight Monday within a block of his home.

His accused killer, Anthony Willis Jr., 17, of Trolley Road in Summerville had a bond hearing Tuesday.

Washington was there, along with almost a dozen relatives and friends.

The hearing was held via a closed-circuit television system, and when Willis came into view on the monitor, the tension rose in the courtroom.

Dorchester County Magistrate Janice Y. Simmons asked if any of the victim's relatives wanted to speak.

Willie Bailey, who is Washington's father and Smoot's grandfather, rose and addressed his comments directly to Willis.

"You didn't have to do what you did," he said. "I am going to pray for you. I'm praying very hard for you."

Washington also rose and spoke to Willis.

"When I look at you, you're just a baby," Washington said. "I'm quite sure there were other ways of handling this."

She finished by telling Willis she would be praying for him also.

Smoot's girlfriend, Tameisha Smallwood, sobbed as she told the judge she could not believe that her boyfriend would not be graduating from school "and he's gone forever and not coming back."

Willis answered the judge's questions but said nothing in his own defense. No one spoke on his behalf.

The magistrate said she could not set bail on a murder charge and ordered that Willis be held without bail. He is in the Dorchester County Detention Center.

After the hearing, Bailey said he and his daughter would be praying for Willis because they were raised in the church. He said he believes young men should be in church and not in the streets.

"These dudes figure if you kill someone, you've got to do two to five years and you're back on the street," Bailey said.

Washington told reporters her son was shot because he had asked the shooter about a break-in that had taken place recently at her own residence and the shooter took offense. Bailey said the shooter drew a gun that misfired. The shooter then left and returned with a rifle, the grandfather said.

Authorities could not confirm the family's version of what happened.

"They've had some bad blood between the two of them for a while," sheriff's Maj. John Garrison said.

Witnesses told detectives the two teens had been arguing in a parking lot at Churchill Commons, which is where Willis lives. Smoot ran onto nearby Muir Court, where he was shot in the chest with a rifle, deputies said.

Witnesses provided a description of the shooter and Willis was picked up when a Summerville Police Department officer spotted him near the scene. Authorities held Willis on a marijuana possession charge while the investigation into the shooting continued, Garrison said.

A criminal background check with the State Law Enforcement Division showed that Smoot was arrested by Summerville police on a strong-arm robbery case in April 2010. The case had not yet gone to trial.

Washington said the arrest last year had nothing to do with the shooting.

"He was my son. My second born. He was a sweet boy," she said.

Her son was taking classes at the Dorchester County Career & Technology Center and hoped to be an electrician when he graduated from Ashley Ridge High School later this month, she said.