COLUMBIA, S.C. — Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott pleaded for the community's help to help curb gun violence on Wednesday after announcing two teens were arrested in the shooting death of another teen last week.
Lott announced the arrest of two 17 year-olds, D'Mari Flannigan and Javienn Coates, two Dreher High School students, in the shooting death of 18-year-old John Carlisle Kelly, an AC Flora High School student, late last week. Both will be charged as adults, according to Lott.
"Last Thursday, you had a mother crying because 18-year-old John Kelly was killed. Last Friday, we had another mother crying because her son was arrested for murder, 17 years old. And yesterday, you had a third mother crying because her son was arrested for murder, too," Lott said at a Thursday press conference.
18-year-old John Carlisle Kelly, an AC Flora High School senior set to graduate in a couple of weeks was found dead on Thursday, May 27, shot to death inside his car. Kelly was an International Baccalaureate (IB) student student, who played soccer, ultimate frisbee and ran cross country.
Deputies say they were called to the 1000 block of Frasier Street, off of Bluff Road in Columbia, just before 6 p.m. last Thursday night. When they arrived, deputies say they found a car with bullet holes in the driver's side door before finding Carlisle unresponsive in the driver's seat. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
"John Kelly met up with D'Mari Flannigan and Javienn Coates, and they were involved in something illegal, all three of them were," Lott said. Lott declined to say what the illegal activity was when asked.
"Flannigan and Coates both shot Kelly," Lott said. "They shot him there, and then they got in the car, with him in the car, sat on top of him and drove him somewhere else and then abandoned the car ... and left their cell phone in the car."
"A gun's gonna get you one two place -- either a cemetery or a prison," Lott said. "That's three people now that's lost their lives. One in the cemetery and two probably going to be in prison for the rest of their lives," Lott said.
From January 1st to June 2nd of 2020, there were 12 murders, according to the Richland County Sheriff's Department. From January 1st to June 2nd this year, there have been 14. During that same time frame in 2020, 30 people were shot. From January 1st to June 2nd of 2021, 54 people have been shot in Richland County.
I don't know what it's going to take for our community to just be totally outraged about this crisis we've got," Lott said. "This is not a law enforcement problem. This is a community problem. And the only way we're going to solve this is as a community."
"We're doing our part ... we've got diversionary programs, we're doing stuff with young people, we're making arrests," Lott said. "But that is not stopping these young people out here with guns who just have total disregard for somebody's life."
"The message from the sheriff's department is 'We're going to lock you up. We're going to come get ya ... we're going to catch ya,'" Lott said. "The message to the community is, 'Community, you gotta do something. You gotta stand up now as a community and we gotta do something. We've got to stop this crisis.'"
Sheriff Lott said parents need to provide guidance to their children and the community needs to come together to help curb gun violence across the Midlands. "That's the churches. That's the schools, community leaders, elected officials. Let's just stop talking and start doing some work," Lott said.