BOWMAN, S.C. (WIS) - Eight people were shot early Tuesday morning in the small town of Bowman in Orangeburg County, the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED) confirmed.
The shooting happened around 1 a.m. at a social gathering near the intersection of Dibble and Rail streets, just off Charleston Highway, SLED said.
Three people have died. They have not yet been identified.
Neighbors say around 100 people were gathering Monday evening for a Memorial Day cookout. They say it was family-friendly community event, until gunfire broke out.
“I thought I was back in Afghanistan,” neighbor Keith Byrd said. “I got low, I got down on the ground, and I waited for the shots to stop.”
Byrd owns a food truck and says he showed up at the event after he heard the group ran out of food.
He said the gunfire came from people driving by the cookout, and he rushed to help those who were injured.
“You can’t just open fire and just start shooting at a cookout, there’s family members, grandmothers,” he explained.
According to Byrd, one of the people killed was a man who was working for him as part of the state’s back-to-work program. Byrd says that man was shot in the leg and he tried to stop the bleeding, but his worker didn’t make it.
“I just feel so bad because this young guy just changed his life, just had a newborn son, a newborn child, and now he can’t even see his child live," Byrd said.
Dionne Summers has lived in Bowman for 19 years. She was sitting in her living room when she says she heard multiple gunshots.
“My first instinct, you think you would drop to the floor, but my son is out here, so keep in mind that’s the first thing on my mind, so I ran to the door,” Summers said. “Meanwhile, I’m telling my daughter to stay back, but I ran to the door calling my son on the phone.”
Her son was not injured, but she says she called 911 three separate times.
“We kept calling asking when EMS is coming because it was critical. It seemed like it took them forever," Summers said.
SLED initially reported three people died and eight others were injured, but later corrected themselves that eight total people were shot -- meaning three have died and five others were hurt.
The conditions of the surviving five are also not known at this time.
SLED said one victim was airlifted to the hospital while another tried to drive to the hospital but didn’t make it.
Investigators have not yet released a motive or the names of any suspects. However, several neighbors say the shooting was gang related.
The Bowman Police Department requested assistance from SLED to investigate the shooting. Law enforcement from Santee, Holly Hill, Orangeburg and Elloree also responded.