Drive-by shootings intensify in Winnsboro; Council presses police chief for answers, plan

WINNSBORO – A Winnsboro teen has been shot in the upper chest during the town’s latest drive-by shooting, according to town officials. A bullet also grazed the 17-year-old’s chin. The shooting occurred around 7 p.m., on Aug. 11, on College Street near Spring St. in Zion Hill.

A vehicle was reportedly driving past two teens walking along the street when a person in the vehicle opened fire, hitting one of the teens multiple times, according to Winnsboro Department of Public Safety Chief John Seibles.

The victim was transported to Prisma Health in Columbia where he was at first listed in serious condition and later downgraded to stable condition, according to law enforcement officials. Information was not available at press time on whether the teen had been released from the hospital.

An arrest warrant was issued for the incident on Monday.

According a Facebook post by WDPS Investigator Oren Gadson, much of the investigative work on the shootings is a shared effort between the WDPS and the Fairfield County Sheriff’s office.

This is not a one man job, tracking these kids down,” according to the post. Gadson wrote that the Sheriff’s department has been a vital part of the shooting investigations.

“These shootings are, for the most part, teens retaliating against each other and it takes teamwork to solve them,” Seibles told The Voice in a previous interview.

Last week’s shooting is the tenth drive-by shooting in Winnsboro since April, and involves the sixth and most seriously injured shooting victim.

Town Manager Jason Taylor told The Voice he was on the phone most of the night of the shooting with law enforcement and other government officials.

“We have to get hold of this situation,” Taylor said. “It can’t go on. Somebody, an innocent person, could get killed if this continues.”

Taylor requested that Winnsboro Department of Public Safety (WDPS) Chief John Seibles appear before town council Tuesday evening to answer questions and present what is being done to stem the violence in the city.

Seibles said he and his officers are working on it.

“We have some warrants out now and expect to be making arrests soon.” Seibles said.

The Zion Hill shooting occurred just six days after another drive-by shooting in the Chatham Forrest neighborhood. In that shooting, two 13-year-olds were each shot in a leg. 

“Several juveniles who had been walking at the entrance to Chatham Forest subdivision were sitting on the Chatham Forest sign when a gray vehicle drove down Ninth Street, headed for the bypass, and fired several shots, hitting two of the young men,” Seibles said.

One teen was shot in the left leg and the other was shot in the right leg.

No arrests have been made in any of the cases, but the sheer number of shootings and the danger they pose is now a focus of the mayor and town administration.

Town leaders react

Taylor called the recent rash of shooting incidents “unacceptable.”

Taylor said efforts are underway to prevent future shootings. Those efforts include increased patrols and installing security cameras.

“This is not acceptable. This should not be normal,” Taylor said. “We do not want to see guns discharged within our town.”

Police Chief John Seibles said at least five arrest warrants have been obtained, two of them for attempted murder.

In some instances, the public has been reluctant to cooperate, but Seibles said Gadson has received enough assistance from residents to zero in on some suspects.

“We certainly intend to bring an end to this very soon,” Seibles said. “We are working very hard.

“We are pursuing this very diligently. This will not be taken lightly in the Town of Winnsboro.”

Seibles believes most shootings seem to be acts of retribution.

“There are little groups going back and forth,” he said. “It’s retaliatory.”

Mayor John McMeekin agreed that it’s imperative to put an end to the shootings.

“We feel we have identified the shooters and when they are apprehended, we will pursue justice to the fullest extent of the law,” McMeekin said.

“If people don’t feel comfortable and safe in their own town, that’s not good,” he said. “We must provide a safe environment, a safe town for our citizens. And we will.”

“I think both the victims are only 13 years old,” Seibles said.

“We interviewed several of the teens who were at the entrance with the victims,” Seibles said. “The injuries were not life-threatening, and both have been released from the hospital.

”Both young men who were shot said they did not recognize the shooters,” Seibles said. “We’ve not been able to confirm how many were in the vehicle, but we have a suspect and are working on that now.”

Second Shooting, Same Place

The Sunday shooting, which happened at about 6:38 p.m., also in Chatham Forest subdivision, didn’t appear to be a drive-by shooting, according to Seibles.

“Four people were sitting in a parked vehicle at a residence,” Seibles said, “when one of the four in the vehicle – a young man – was shot in the buttocks. We’re not sure yet just what happened in that vehicle, but officers on the scene said it appeared that the shot was discharged from inside the vehicle,” he said. “The person who we believe was the shooter fled the scene before officers arrived.”

A woman at the scene said one man sped off in a second (burgundy) vehicle and another man left in a third (white) vehicle.

The gunshot victim drove himself to the emergency room and the fourth man accompanied him.

Seibles said he does not know yet if the two Chatham Forest shootings were related, but said the incident is still being investigated by the WDPS.

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