I went to see the place where 5-year-old Tyreik Gadsden was shot on Friday night, May 22, in the Wraggborough public housing neighborhood at Mary and America streets. There is a playground just feet from where the shooting occurred.
Some of the residents said they would have had a better chance of seeing the shooter if the exterior lights on the buildings were working. “These lights rarely ever work,” one person told me.
I had to see this for myself. So the next morning at 5 a.m. when it was dark I drove by the neighborhood. Sure enough numerous exterior building lights were out. The lights I am referring to are on either side of the apartments’ front and back doors. Some lights were on but most were off.
It is my understanding these lights are controlled and maintained by the Charleston Housing Authority — not the residents. I reported my findings to the Housing Authority director of security. I also contacted the repairs office for the Housing Authority.
After being transferred to a couple different people, I left the property manager a request that the lights be repaired and overall lighting enhanced in the area where Tyreik was shot.
Maintaining exterior lighting that is consistently in good working order among city public housing developments is imperative for security purposes — especially in areas known to have recurring problems with violence and drugs. Criminals are more likely to avoid well lit areas than poorly lit areas.
It would be beyond tragic for another incident of violence to occur where an innocent child or adult is victimized, and eyewitnesses are inhibited from identifying criminals because lighting provided by the city Housing Authority is inadequate.
Had those lights been on that night it is also possible the shooter could have seen Tyreik and not pulled the trigger.
If the Housing Authority is short on resources or workers I will volunteer to help or perhaps the city can ask Skanska to contribute a few workers from the Gaillard Auditorium project.
That same night I observed the lighting at the Wraggborough public housing development, I drove by the Gaillard Auditorium, and it was like driving by a light show. My stomach hit the floor. It is unacceptable to me that millions of dollars are being pumped toward building and lighting a new performance hall and new city offices while blocks away the city housing projects remain so poorly lit that residents cannot see well enough at night to identify criminals we know to exist in that area.
The City of Charleston police work very hard to patrol these neighborhoods. It is time for the Charleston Housing Authority to get its act together and keep the lights on at night.
Ellery I. Walde Schauer