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Charleston's East Side at 'tipping point' following Hanover Street homicide

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Neighbors, friends and members of the community gather Sunday, Aug. 11, 2019, in front of the home of Timothy Haman Jr. on Hanover Street during a vigil in Charleston. Gavin McIntyre/Staff

It was still daylight when five gunshots split the sweltering summer evening in Charleston's East Side. 

Officers on patrol about a block away rushed to Hanover Street where they found a man, lying on the stoop of his apartment and bleeding from his chest. Neighbors and passersby were already gathered around, performing CPR as officers arrived. An ambulance rushed the man to a hospital where he later died. 

Timothy Haman Jr., a 41-year-old white man, had been shot to death. Shannon Johnson, an 18-year-old black man, is accused of pulling the trigger after getting into an argument that escalated while Haman was moving furniture.

Multiple cameras from a residence and nearby store captured the suspect's comings and goings leading up to and during the shooting. The surveillance helped solve the case, and he was taken into custody four days later.  

But frustrations have boiled over in the days after the brazen homicide, revealing conflicts between the East Side's black residents and newer arrivals. At a community meeting held this week, Mayor John Tecklenburg and Police Chief Luther Reynolds urged them to come together and solve the neighborhood's issues, but tensions persist.

"It's a tipping point," said Dot Scott, Charleston Branch NAACP president. 

Solving a shooting

It started around 7:40 p.m. Aug. 8.

Arrest affidavits allege the shooting played out this way:

Johnson rode a bicycle by Haman’s home, 43 Hanover St., saw the man and his girlfriend outside and started insulting them. Haman responded. Johnson whipped his bicycle around and the men fought. Three black males on bicycles rode up and joined the fray. One of the men slapped Haman's girlfriend in the face.

The couple started back toward their home but Johnson pulled out a handgun. He pointed it at Haman, a sous-chef at The Darling Oyster Bar on King Street, and opened fire. 

Video from a nearby home captured the incident. Haman moves out of view. There is shouting and gunshots. The camera captures the muzzle flash.

Johnson, a resident of West Lenevar Drive in West Ashley, fled on his bicycle, affidavits said. The other men, identified but not accused of a crime, fled on bikes just before he brandished the handgun.

Surveillance footage from a business captured Johnson's distinctive clothing: Dark baseball cap with Louis Vuitton symbols, black shirt with FENDI on the front, and light gray shoes with white soles, and blue and red markings on the top near the laces. 

Cameras also captured Johnson's bicycle — a red beach cruiser with chrome fenders over both tires, reflectors in the metal spokes of both wheels and chrome handlebars, affidavits said. 

Johnson’s parole officer and an officer who regularly patrols the neighborhood identified him as the suspect.

He was arrested by federal marshals on Monday and charged with murder and possessing a deadly weapon while committing a violent crime.

State Law Enforcement Division records show Johnson has multiple arrests in the past two years for charges like cocaine manufacturing and distribution, and automobile theft.

Community challenges

Haman's death has prompted impassioned conversation and debate over crime on the East Side.

At Tuesday's town hall session, Charleston officials promised residents that they would see an increase in the number of surveillance cameras in the area. Residents at the meeting were also reminded that officials were weeks away from breaking ground on a neighborhood center.

But that didn’t dissuade some who argued that, historically, this is a neighborhood that regularly falls on the city’s back burner.

Tim Weber, a longtime resident, said the community today is more divided than he's ever seen, and is facing an uphill battle when it comes to fighting crime.

Residents have been improving the neighborhood and pressing the city for resources to make change happen, but leaders have dropped the ball, Weber said. On Aug. 6, 2018, a group of roughly 40 residents went to Tecklenburg's office and showed him evidence of worrisome criminal activity: Video of a drive-by shooting, neighbors wielding guns before an armed robbery and a shootout between drug dealers.

They demanded changes including more police resources and programs to inform residents on how to interact with police and property report crimes, according to a document provided by Weber.

The mayor came up with a 10-point plan that included items like street light installation and beautification efforts, but Weber alleges several of those projects were never completed. 

For Scott, a big part of the problem is that residents are not having honest conversations about the issues.

"We are just so polite and everything has to be like, oh we're all getting along," she said. "No, we're not. ... In order to start the conversation, people need to be open."

All residents need to realize that Charleston's black residents have been let down by a history of broken promises and neglect by city leaders, Scott said. Many in those communities feel as if they are being pushed out by newer, more affluent residents that are driving up the cost of living and have resources that were long out of reach for people of color.

The path forward

Lt. Andre Jenkins, who commands Charleston Police Department's Team 1 that patrols the East Side and surrounding neighborhoods, said he and his officers remain dedicated to enforcing all laws and investigating all crimes they are made aware of in the community. 

Residents are encouraged to contact police with information and can make anonymous tips if they choose, Jenkins said. 

Over time, the city has increased the number of officers patrolling the East Side, he said. That and other strategies have helped contribute to historically low crime levels in the neighborhood. 

"Statistically, if you look at stuff from homicides to robberies to aggravated assaults, there has been a huge reduction in those kind of crimes," Jenkins said. "But it’s all about how a person feels. We as an organization understand that there's a lot more work we need to do."

And although tensions are high, the East Side remains a tightly knit, diverse neighborhood filled with residents that care about their community. 

Weber said that in his time living in the neighborhood, he's come to know residents of all backgrounds that are kind, caring and generous. 

"I hope that we can all come together and agree that violent crime in our neighborhood needs to end," he said.

On the Sunday following Haman's death, black and white residents stood side by side at a vigil commemorating the slain sous-chef's life.

Residents and city leaders spoke about standing together against violence.

Reach Gregory Yee at 843-937-5908. Follow him on Twitter @GregoryYYee.

Gregory Yee covers breaking news and public safety. He's a native Angeleno and previously covered crime and courts for the Press-Telegram in Long Beach, CA. He studied journalism and Spanish literature at the University of California, Irvine.

Michael Majchrowicz is a reporter covering crime and public safety. He previously wrote about courts for the Daily Hampshire Gazette in Northampton, Massachusetts. A Hoosier native, he graduated from Indiana University with a degree in journalism.

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