2 teenagers charged in apartment killing

Cephus Mitchell

Two teenagers were charged with murder Wednesday in Saturday's fatal shooting at the Bridgeview Village apartments, Charleston police said.

The alleged shooter is a 17-year-old Ladson woman, police said. Her co-defendant is an 18-year-old West Ashley man, who is on probation after having been convicted in April of robbing three people at the same apartment complex in June of 2009.

Vashty West, 17, of Columbia Drive, Ladson, and Cephus Dezmone Mitchell, 18, of Main Street, Charleston, each are charged with murder in the slaying of 28-year-old Jamar Gathers of North Charleston, said Charles Francis, public information officer for Charleston police.

Vashty also is charged with possession of a firearm during the commission of a violent crime. Investigators think she was the shooter, Francis said.

The two were being held in the Charleston County Detention Center awaiting a bond hearing scheduled for today.

Gathers was shot and killed about 4 p.m. in a breezeway at the housing project, which is on North Romney Street.

Francis said police are grateful to the residents who came forward with information about the case.

According to a records check with the State Law Enforcement Division, Mitchell, whose first name also is listed in some records as "Cephas," was arrested by Charleston police in June 2009 and charged with first- degree criminal sexual conduct, two counts of kidnapping, three counts of armed robbery and possession of a firearm during the commission of a violent crime.

Two women and a man were robbed by an armed man at the Bridgeview Village apartments about 3 a.m. on June 16, 2009. The women also were raped, according to police reports.

When Mitchell went to court in April, the charge had been reduced to one count of strong-arm robbery. He was convicted and given a suspended sentence and two years of probation. According to the state Department of Probation, Parole and Pardon Services, Mitchell is under active supervision.

Ninth Circuit Solicitor Scarlett Wilson said Mitchell's charges were reduced because the victims would not cooperate with the prosecution. The strong-arm robbery charge was negotiated as part of a plea bargain, she said.

"It is unfortunate, but you would not believe how many times we see that," Wilson said. "We're busting our cans to try to help these people and they don't want to help us."

Meanwhile, Bridgeview residents are upset about the violence erupting around them, said Fouche Sheppard, who has lived at the complex since 1974.

"I am so afraid for the children," Sheppard said. "I get goose bumps when I think of it, the time of day it happened."

She was referring to Saturday's fatal shooting, but it was not the first time this month that gunshots were fired in broad daylight at the complex.

At about 6:20 p.m. on Aug. 14, a resident of the complex reported hearing four shots fired at her apartment. Officers found two bullet holes in her bedroom wall and two in the ceiling above her bed. No one was injured and no suspects were found.

Whenever there is violence at Bridgeview, parents usually keep their children inside for a few days, said a 39-year-old mother of four who did not want to give her name. She was sitting with three other women in a breezeway of one of the buildings.

"There is too much violence going on," the woman said. "People are afraid to let their kids go outside."

Another woman in the group said police officers are gruff and often disrespectful of residents of the complex.

She said police will run them off if they find them sitting in breezeways in groups. "They accuse us of knowing something about the shootings and not telling them," the woman said.

Incidents of violence make an impression on the young children living at Bridgeview, Sheppard said.

"Just yesterday, a 2-year-old girl told her cousin, 'I will get a gun and shoot you,' " she said. "It just breaks my heart."

The girl had seen Gathers lying in a pool of blood Saturday, Sheppard said.