MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WBTW) – News13’s coverage area saw at least 385 shootings last year, according to a crime analysis.

The analysis included data from Darlington, Dillon, Florence, Horry, Marion and Marlboro counties in South Carolina, along with Robeson and Scotland counties in North Carolina.

It was a violent year for the area, especially for normally quiet areas of the Pee Dee that traditionally only saw a few – if any – homicides in a year.

A pace set early into the year signaled that 2021 would end with more calls of shots fired than days in the year. The 100-shootings mark was reached at the beginning of April. The area surpassed 200 in June, and then surged to more than 300 in October.

Gun Violence Trends

News13’s analysis is based on substantiated law enforcement reports of shots fired. Data was obtained either directly from spokespersons for government agencies, arrest records or incident reports. The true number of shootings likely exceeds 385.

Suicides were not counted unless they were a part of a murder-suicide event. Accidental shootings that led to an injury or death are included.

The number of shootings per month was steady through the first half of the year before jumping in June. Gun violence dropped by about half that rate for July and August, before surging again in the fall.

The most violent month for gun crime was in June, with 44 shootings that led to 40 people being hurt or killed. The least violent month was July, with 24 shootings.

Of the 385 shootings, 305 led to at least one person being hurt or killed. In total, shootings killed 136 people and hurt an additional 250 last year.

Among the dead is a 4-year-old who accidentally shot themselves, at least one woman who was pregnant and a married couple dead in a murder-suicide.

At least one-third of the shootings led to at least one death.

In 2021, at least 57.7% of days experienced a shooting. In June, 76.7% of days included a shooting. There was not a stretch of more than five days without a shooting.

The heat map below shows the frequency of days with a shooting, and days without gun violence.

Shootings also tended to cluster. During the year, there were at least 25 days with three shootings that happened, five days with four shootings, five days with five shootings and one day with six shootings.

The heat map below shows the number of shootings in 2021 per day.

The majority of homicide victims were from the communities they were killed in, according to data from law enforcement and county coroners. Of those killed, the most frequent age was 20. About half were younger than 30. Police have yet to release details for 20% of the victims.

While nationwide, most people who are murdered are killed by someone they knew, Julie Eberly, a Pennsyvlania mom of six who with her husband on their way to vacation, was killed in April on I-95 near Lumberton in what has been described as a road rage incident.

Robeson County deputies have said that the vehicle Eberly was riding in came too close to the suspect’s vehicle when trying to merge into a lane. The suspect then pulled up to the passenger side of her vehicle and fired at the passenger door.

After a plea for information, deputies arrested 29-year-old Dejywan Floyd, of Lumberton, for murder.

The area’s most deadly shooting was in November, when a triple homicide in Lumberton killed 24-year-old Ryan Locklear, 20-year-old Treyvon Mitchell and 20-year-old Da’Vern Inman. Dakota Ray Locklear, 23, of Lumberton, has been charged with three counts of first-degree murder.

And on Oct. 23, six people were injured after a shooting at a Florence sports bar, making it the most violent shooting of the year.

Getting Justice

A rush of fatal shootings in the Pee Dee spurred the Darlington County Sheriff’s Office to create its first homicide unit to help with the rising caseloads.

“I think 2021, and 2020, and 2019 were bad years for the nation, not just for the Pee Dee area,” Darlington County Sheriff James Hudson said.

The team is made up of four officers – two from criminal investigations, one from the patrol side and one gang investigator. Previously, one to two deputies worked homicides, in addition to other cases.

Hudson wanted the team to have a handful of specialties to look at the different sides of the crimes. A majority of the murders are gang- and drug-related, he said, and the patrol deputies already know most of the suspects.

“You want people on there that are familiar with the players, if you will, or the defendants in these crimes,” Hudson said. 

The team, he said, has already proven itself. Of 19 homicides last year, he said there’s been arrests in 17. The team also solved two cold cases.

“It has worked out tremendously for us here at the Darlington County Sheriff’s Office,” Hudson said.

Across News13’s viewing area, 92.6% of the deadly shootings have been classified as homicides. Of those, 34.9% remain unsolved.

Of the remaining deaths, one has been classified as accidental, six were justified and two people were killed by law enforcement. Five suspects have died.

South Carolina’s homicide rate was 10.5 per 100,000 people in 2020, according to FBI data, while the national rate was 6.5 per 100,000 people. The previous year, the U.S. saw 5.1 homicides per 100,000 people.

Data for 2021 will be released later this year.

South Carolina had the fifth-highest homicide rate in the nation in 2019, according to data from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. 

According to that same dataset, News13’s coverage area had more gun-related homicides than the total number of murders in 18 states.

In the Pee Dee, officials have hoped that the crime wave would be temporary and eventually move out of the area. That appears to be happening, according to Hudson.

“It has slowed down already,” Hudson said. “Knock on some wood, and thank God for his grace and his mercy. He has slowed it down already.”

Law enforcement has always struggled with finding witnesses to come forward to help solve shooting crimes. While Hudson said his department tries to stress that message, people can still be reluctant.

That also, he said, is changing. The public is getting tired of the crime and has said they won’t accept that violent behavior in the community. Hudson said pastors and churches have also reached out to ask what they can do.

He said that victims’ families deserve the justice that comes along with the arrest and prosecution of a suspect.

“The families need relief, and people want to know who has taken the life of a loved one, and we want to show the communities that we are on top of it,” Hudson said.