A teenager trying to charge his cellphone in a Rock Hill Walmart on Saturday was beaten and robbed near the front of the store by a group of teens affiliated with a street gang, police say.
At about 1 a.m., the 16-year-old victim went to the Rock Hill Galleria on Dave Lyle Boulevard with $150 in a sock to purchase the newest pair of Air Jordan sneakers that would become available that morning, according to a Rock Hill Police report.
A teenage girl who witnessed the assault told police she and the victim walked to the adjoining Walmart to charge their cellphones, the report states. While waiting inside the store near the restrooms, a group of boys the girl identified as members of the “715” gang approached them.
One of the boys took out a cellphone to record the confrontation, the girl told police. That’s when another boy hit the victim and the two began fighting.
While the boys were fighting, the victim’s money fell to the ground. A third boy began hitting the victim, while another grabbed the cash.
The girl tried to intervene, the report states, but another boy flashed a gun he kept hidden under his T-shirt and threatened her, according to the report.
With the victim’s money in hand, the group ran out the store’s front entrance, the report states.
Police say Walmart employees were aware of the assault, which went unreported until Monday when a woman who learned about the attack from a friend asked her teenage daughter about it and then called authorities.
Police spoke with the girl, who witnessed the attack, and the victim separately, the report states. Their stories matched.
A mother of one of the teens showed police several screenshots she saved on her cellphone depicting the suspects holding up a gun and the money they took from the boy with captions bragging about what they did, the report states. The teens told police that the boys in the picture wore the same clothes during the assault.
Police report there is no indication that Walmart security officers or loss prevention personnel intervened in the scuffle, said Executive Officer Mark Bollinger of the Rock Hill Police Department.
He said he could not speak to whether store administrators had been informed.
A manager at the Walmart off Dave Lyle Boulevard declined to comment on Wednesday. She would not say if security personnel was present during the assault, or if the store had added any new security measures as a response to the attack.
Kayla Whaling, a Walmart corporate spokeswoman, said the company was unaware of the fight until police began an investigation. She said Walmart is providing Rock Hill Police with information and surveillance video.
Bollinger confirmed that an investigator does have video of the incident showing the teens in Walmart, but not the actual fight.
“When it comes to the safety of our associates and customers, it’s always No. 1,” Whaling said. “We carefully evaluate crime security measures on dealing with situations.”
She was unable to elaborate on those measures. She also could not say how many employees were working at Walmart early Saturday when the incident occurred.
Walmart follows “state and local laws,” Whaling said in response to a question about people carrying guns in the stores.
State law gives a private property owner the right to allow or prohibit concealed-weapons permit holders from carrying firearms on the premises. If the private property owner posts a sign stating, “No Concealable Weapons Allowed,” state law protects their right not to allow weapons on the premises.
There are no signs on the front doors warning gun holders not to carry weapons inside the Dave Lyle Boulevard Walmart.
Police have identified suspects in the assault, Bollinger said, and soon plan to make arrests.
Police allege the suspects involved belong to the “715” gang, a group of teenagers and young adults who primarily operate in southern Rock Hill. They evolved, Bollinger said, from the longstanding Green Street University gang, whose members identified themselves by branding “GSU” into their skin or tattooing the letters on their arms.
Gang members adopted the name “715” about four years ago after one of their leaders died while playing a game of “Russian Roulette” with a handgun at 715 Green St., Bollinger said.
“They’ve got members all over,” Bollinger said, but they’re mostly centralized in the South Central area of Rock Hill.
Neighbors have worked for years to improve South Central’s image as a hub for drugs, crime and violence.
Nathaniel Jaggers, president of the South Central Neighborhood Association, said he was not too familiar with “715” and assumed most GSU members “aged out” of their gang ties.
Before Weed and Seed grant money was funneled into the neighborhood, gang activity in the area was more “conspicuous,” he said. Now, he believes gang members likely conduct their “business” in regular-looking cars without “fancy wheels.”
“After Weed and Seed got strong on them, they went undercover and moved around a little bit,” he said. “They felt that they were being watched. They got in their cars and stayed mobile.”
Jonathan McFadden • 803-329-4082