Waccamaw Bingo hall shooter found guilty, sentenced to life in prison

Grand Strand Crime

CONWAY, S.C. (WBTW) — A jury found Derrick Rivera guilty on all charges on the fourth day of the trial of the alleged Waccamaw Bingo hall shooter.

Rivera faced two murder charges and one charge of armed robbery stemming from a 2019 shooting in the Forestbrook area that killed a father and son.

Rivera was sentenced to life in prison on each murder charge and 30 years in prison on the armed robbery charge, according to the 15th Circuit Solicitor’s Office. The sentences will run concurrently.

Waccamaw Bingo hall owners and father-son duo Steve and “Sparky” Johnson were shot and killed July 26, 2019 in an attempted robbery of the bingo parlor. The prosecution, led by 15th Circuit Chief Deputy Solicitor Scott Hixson, said Rivera was the shooter while his accomplice, Bradford Britton, drove the getaway car.

Pamela Johnson, widow of “Sparky” Johnson and daughter-in-law of Steve Johnson, and her daughter Savannah said the guilty verdict felt like a huge weight was lifted off their shoulders. Pamela Johnson said people should remember the names of the two men killed that night and not their killer.

“The thing that I want most for anybody to know is that Steve and Sparky are the two names that should be remembered from this time,” Johnson said. “Not Derrick Rivera. Not Bradford Britton. Because Sparky died a hero. He saved so many peoples lives that night. He saved our daughter’s life. She wanted to go to work with him, and he told her no, and I thank God every day he told her no.”

Both Pamela and Savannah said Steve and Sparky were two hard-working men who could light up a room.

“They were just always funny cracking jokes and just living life to the fullest,” Pamela said.

Pamela and Savannah addressed the court Friday, asking Judge Benjamin Culbertson to sentence Rivera to the fullest extent of the law.

“I’m very happy with the verdict,” said Savannah Johnson. “It’s been a long time coming, and now it feels like a whole weight’s been lifted off of my shoulders and the healing process can begin and I can honor my dad the best way that I can.”

Savannah is one of the Johnson’s triplets. Her two brothers were not in the court room for the verdict but still felt relief once they heard the decision, according to Savannah.

“We’ve called my brothers, and they’re very happy with the verdict,” she said. “And they feel like the weight of this is off their shoulders now so hopefully they can also move forward and heal from it in the right way.”

Savannah said the memory of her father motivates her every day. She’s a senior at the University of South Carolina, studying journalism and criminal justice.

“For me, I made a promise to my dad two years ago that I was always going to fight for him and that I was going to make every dream, every goal that we talked about happen,” she said. “So now for me, it’s moving forward and honoring him the best way that I can by making all those things happen and more.”

Pamela said she barely slept overnight Thursday into Friday with closing arguments and a decision looming. She said Friday’s verdict “was a long time coming.”

“I know for myself, I’m going to get some sleep,” Pamela said. “And then, I may take our triplets off on a little trip just to get away, and we will always honor Steve and Sparky.”

Bradford Britton pleaded guilty earlier in the week to to accessory after the fact of murder and attempted armed robbery. He will be sentenced at a later date. Pamela Johnson said she will be at Britton’s sentencing hearing when it happens.

This is a developing story. Refresh for updates.

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