The terrifying world of crime and gunfire turned Monday from being something that happens between dope dealers in dark motel rooms to a wild west kind of horror in broad daylight in one of Rock Hill’s busiest shopping centers.
Nobody was hurt as shots flew threw the air in the parking lot of the busy Winthrop Commons shopping center at Cherry Road and Charlotte Avenue just before 4 p.m.
But the fact that nobody wound up lying in a pool of blood on the pavement doesn’t change the fact that somebody – shopping, buying a sandwich, dropping off mail at the post office or stretching a buck at the busy Dollar Tree – could have been wounded or killed.
A man with his 2-year-old son was right there in the parking lot when these criminals who care not a bit for the lives of others started shooting.
“You sure don’t expect something like this in the middle of the afternoon,” Shelby Bessette, a Winthrop student working a summer job at the College Shoppe, said Tuesday. “There was a guy out there in the parking lot with a baby. Who knows what could have happened?”
What could have happened, without question, is decent people just are going through life could have been shot or killed.
Farther down the plaza, that man with the young child ran into a store, and workers there locked the doors and called 911. A regular in the clothing store yelled out, “Oh my God!” as shots rang out and one of the gunmen ran past the front of the store, Bessette said.
Next door at a tanning salon, employee Eryn McManus said Tuesday the incident was, “like chaos, crazy.”
People were running to get away from the gunfire; some tried to do the right thing and get the license plate tags of the two vehicles that sped away.
The Rock Hill Police incident report is plain and terrifying.
“Multiple witnesses stated they saw a black male fire 3-4 shots and run across the parking lot and get into a Silver Ford Crown Victoria,” the report states. A black Land Rover followed the Crown Vic, the report states, and cops later found the SUV.
But the people from that SUV would not help the cops catch whoever caused the chaos in the parking lot, after more than a half-dozen patrol officers and detectives arrived to try to figure out what happened. Crime scene officers found four shell casings.
“Officers attempted to speak to citizens who were possibly the intended targets, but received no cooperation,” the report states. “It is unknown if there was an intended victim or if shots were fired into the air.”
Right there is the part that hurts everybody else in this city – the people who might tell the police who was shooting won’t talk.
A code of silence, a preposterous “no-snitch” system that benefits nobody but the criminals in a crime that could have been disastrous. Silence from those who might know leaves all those innocent workers and customers facing another day without anybody in jail.
Shots are fired for one reason – to kill.
Everyone else – the workers and customers of all these places – easily could have been caught in gunfire.
The father and his kid, the sub shop workers on their feet all day, the old lady walking to her car from the dollar store, left to wonder who will do the right thing when gunshots are fired.
One of the workers at the Radio Shack heard the shots, manager Patricia Holcomb. The whole incident is “disturbing” and threatens the peace of mind of people in the plaza, she said.
When the shots were fired, an employee of Jersey Mike’s sub shop was outside, said owner Bob Katz. The incident happened near the sub shop but had nothing to do with the restaurant, Katz said.
“My employees handled it very well; nobody panicked,” Katz said.
The store remains a safe place to go, said Katz and his employees Tuesday. The restaurant was busy, filled with hungry customers and friendly, helpful servers.
Sally Cook, who has worked at the restaurant a year, remembered clearly Tuesday how the whole afternoon careened from sandwiches and smiles to anxious moments a day before.
It was 3:50 p.m., Cook said, because she had just checked the time. She had served a man – “very cordial and nice” – a No. 7 turkey sandwich. The man wore a Chicago Bulls hat and dark sunglasses.
The shots were fired and the man dropped his drink, threw his chips and sandwich and ran out, Cook said. “I know because I was the one to clean it up.”
Customers near the window were pointing at the parking lot where the mayhem was taking place, Cook said.
Cook went to work Tuesday because – like so many in this great city – she has to work and will stand on her feet and make sandwiches to earn a dollar if that is what it takes.
She is Rock Hill – tough and quick with a smile, but now a little more leery than a day before.
Rock Hill Police are investigating but have not made any arrests, spokesman Lt. Brad Redfearn said.
On Tuesday, the businesses were open, and customers went in and out of the plaza. Commerce went on.
A barker with a sign advertising $4 generics for a pharmacy in the plaza stood on the sidewalk at the busy corner of Charlotte Avenue and Cherry Road.
But gunfire in broad daylight are not forgotten.
The guy with the baby out there in the parking lot, who had the guts to get the license plate information, is not forgotten because he was heroic for his kid and heroic for the rest of us if the shooter is caught.
Still, the few seconds of being terrified, as a guy protected his little son, should not be forgotten by anybody.
Bad guys who shoot guns are not forgotten – until good guys help put them in jail.