The refrain from so many along Rock Hill’s busy Celanese Road Wednesday, not far from the spot where a 20-year-old was gunned down in his apartment, was almost always the same:
“Did the police catch them yet?’
The answer was no. Police have not caught two of four involved in a gunfight during the busy Tuesday afternoon rush hour that left one man dead, another mangled from bullets and two more involved on the loose and uncaught.
People along this busy commercial road – large apartment complexes tucked in behind businesses on both sides – prepared Wednesday to spend another night and maybe another day wondering how such carnage can take place within walking distance of where children play and parents trudge home from a long day at work.
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A daycare center, with parents picking up children at 5:30 p.m., stands next to the entrance to the apartments where the gunshots rang out.
News of the melee startled the people who work nearby.
“When I saw all the police go by, I knew that something was going on and it could not be good,” said Mark Kevah, who runs Express beverage and convenience store just yards from the entrance to the Stone Haven Apartments.
Kevah rushed next door to tell the women who operate the Stitch & Frame Shop that has been an institution on Celanese for 35 years. They locked their doors tight – right in the middle of the after-5 p.m. rush – as cops swarmed past.
One of the customers at Kevah’s store Wednesday who lives nearby, who said she did not want to give her name, said the killing “hits too close to home” and makes her “fearful.” She saw all the commotion last night, the police cars, then found out from neighbors that a man was dead and the killers uncaught.
“It’s getting ridiculous when somebody gets killed right next door,” she said.
Police say they are still searching for two men in connection with the crime, with a third suspect in the hospital.
Workers at some of the businesses on either side of the entrance to the apartment complex said the killing was shocking, but the unease is far worse because two of the culprits are still running around loose.
Even people who live at apartments across Celanese Road and down the street had concerns about the killing.
These complexes are filled with lots of different kinds of people, but many are blue-collar working people – including a large number of Hispanic immigrants. These are complexes where people work hard to earn their pay.
A killing, a murder, a death by bullets, scares real people who send kids to school bus stops just yards from where the young man died. The area is filled with children of all ages.
Anybody who has ever lived in an apartment complex, or just visited anybody at a complex, knows that at 5:30 in the afternoon, people are coming and going in the course of their busy lives.
5:30 is the crossroads of life at apartments.
The police responded Tuesday to what was described as a “shots fired” call. Enough shots to crack the walls.
Anybody can get hit by a fired bullet that misses its target or continues through a wall. A gunfight with several people involved is worse.
Wednesday morning, the school bus picked up dozens of kids from the apartments on both sides of Celanese Road near where the shooting happened. These kids woke up to news reports of death from gunshots, instead of the promise of a better life through science and English and math.
By the afternoon, the buses came back and the children came home to more uncertainty. A pair of buses were stopped on Celanese Road, dropping off kids, at the same time Wednesday afternoon that police were saying the killing was a shootout.
Hard-working people such as Mark Kevah and his wife, who also works in the store, spent most of the day trying to make a dollar and wondering about unsolved murder less than 100 yards from where they sell cigarettes and beer and cold sodas.
He saw the news on a cellphone that police called “an exchange of gunfire.”
“Horrible,” said Kevah.
The ladies in the frame shop saw the police statement.
“Right behind us,” one said.
And two men still on the loose.
The anxiousness remained. The rush hour went on. People came home from work.
Another killing, a gun death and injuries and two young men on the run facing murder charges after an “exchange of gunfire,” just yards away from where people work hard on their American Dream – and kids just plain dream.