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Fatal shooting leaves Rock Hill neighbors shaken, yet certain they'll stay put

Next-door, just feet across some stunted grass from where a 41-year-old mother was shot Tuesday night, dead from bullets at 7:30 at night, is a home belonging to a man named William Smith.

Smith, 67, is a Vietnam War veteran and retiree from the old Bowater plant. He has lived in the same house, at the corner of Green Street and Powderhouse Street, since 1974.

"Come in, please," Smith says to a stranger, because that is how he was raised and lives. A knock at the door, you treat someone nice.

Even when violent death happens within a few feet of the door.

Smith raised two sons in that house and retired in that house. His house has pictures of his sons in the Navy, his grandchildren. His whole life has been work and family and this little house that is his alone, paid for by his work.

The house sits just a few doors down from where, on the porch, young guys drink big beers in the middle of the afternoon.

"Somebody shot into the house across the street the other way, too," said Smith. "This has to stop. I did not work so hard for this to happen."

A guy like William Smith deserves better than gunshots a few feet from where he has lived for so long after a lifetime of work.

But that is what happened on Powderhouse Street, a tiny street that dead ends behind where Smith lives. A woman just off probation on felony drug charges, Elonia Ware, was shot in that house next to Smith's. Police have not alleged anything against Elonia Ware in this brutal crime.

The building Ware lived in is cut up into apartments - the only apartments on the block of longtime homeowners. Police have only said the crime is not a random act of violence, not brutality by accident.

The woman's son, 20, and boyfriend were in the house, too. The time of the shooting was 7:30 p.m.

It remains unclear, though, who the target was, or why.

What is clear is the shots rang out at Bible study time, choir practice time, for these proud black homeowners of this black neighborhood who have lived there for decades.

Powderhouse Street ends with a cut-through, a path, where the demons of the night roam freely. Those demons shoot guns and sell dope and destroy all of what the real people of this neighborhood worked so hard for - gunshot by gunshot, drug deal by drug deal.

Yet Nathaniel Jaggers, president of the South-Central neighborhood association, who has lived around the block for decades, said in recent months incidents are down, police patrols up.

"We were doing so good before this," Jaggers said. "The problem is not the people who worked so hard for what they have. The problem is those who will not work. They bring the trouble to us."

Directly across from the shooting site lives Minnie McCaw. More than 35 years in the same home, a living room with uncountable photos of children and grandchildren. High school and college graduation pictures of so many people who started in this little house are on tables and stands.

McCaw is no stranger to the violence of these streets around her. One of her sons was a murder victim years ago - died right down the street, a knife in his side.

She worked years in the textile mills until the mills closed and she retired to her home. She even took a second mortgage to pay her bills.

"This is all I have," McCaw said of her little house. "But it is mine. I worked so hard, and times are so tough, that I am looking for a job. I don't want to lose this place of mine."

Minnie McCaw, 76, is worried about losing her home, about 50 feet from where gunshots kill.

Cars roll by on Green Street, Powderhouse, sightseers looking for where the lady died from bullets while in her own home.

Maggie Turner, Tuesday night when the shots rang out, was in a room not 50 feet from where those bullets flew. She has lived next door for more than 50 years.

Thursday, she sat on her tiny front porch, in the sun. She deserved to sit there in peace without violence around her. She heard the gunshots Tuesday night, hoping and praying it was firecrackers.

She was wrong.

Turner, in her late 70s, worked as a domestic - she cooked and cleaned and ironed for white families - and then worked 20-plus years in a carpet mill. Her home is all she has. It was earned on her feet over decades.

"But after this, I don't know," said Turner. "Maybe it is time to go live somewhere else."

No woman who has worked so hard should have to consider such an option.

A longtime agent with York County's drug unit said he often drives down Green Street, into this neighborhood that includes Powderhouse, so all can see "the narc."

He wants anybody nefarious to know he is there, and he wants these older people to know he is there. The older people wave to him.

"These people are older, retired, they can't move," the agent said. "They shouldn't either. They worked for what they have."

Across the street from Turner lives Eloise McCoy, in her late 60s. She has lived in her home for 39 years. She, too, heard the gunshots Tuesday.

"This is my home," she said to a stranger Thursday afternoon. "Raised my three kids right here. Come right in."

Somebody died a few yards from her, and she invites strangers in to sit. That is the grace of these people who are under siege from violence and drugs. Offer a seat, offer a drink of water, smile.

"Gunshots," said McCoy. "Guns are terrible. Guns are the ruination."

All four of these houses surrounding where the woman was shot are home to retirees. Each home has dozens of photos and diplomas and testaments of successful children and grandchildren covering so many walls and tables.

William Smith, undaunted by violence, defiant against those who would dare try to ruin what he has done in his life, put it like this: "I am going nowhere. What I have here I worked for. Nobody will take this from me."

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