A family in South Carolina is pushing for law changes after their loved one was killed by a neighbor allegedly playing target practice while under the influence.
Kesha Luwan Lucille Tate, 42, died from a single gunshot wound to the chest on the evening of Aug. 27 while inside her mobile home in Gaffney, South Carolina — about 50 miles southwest of Charlotte, North Carolina, according to the Associated Press. Tate’s family said that, just before the shooting, the victim had called out to her neighbor, Nicholas Skylar Lucas, 30, requesting he stop his backyard target practice.
Tate’s children told relatives that Lucas and his buddies were shooting at a satellite dish less than 50 feet from Tate’s back door at around 6:30 p.m., while Tate had been cooking dinner. She reportedly called out to Lucas from a window of her mobile home, asking him to stop shooting, but when the shooting resumed moments later, Tate returned to the window.
There, a bullet — allegedly from Lucas’ .45-caliber handgun — pierced Tate’s chest, and she died. Several of her children — one as young as 4 years old — were also at the residence but physically unharmed.
Lucas, who regularly shot at cans and a fallen satellite dish on his property, told investigators that one of his bullets had ricocheted off the dish, accidentally killing the mother of nine. He was arrested and initially charged with involuntary manslaughter — a crime punishable by five years, according to the Associated Press. Deputies with the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office also charged him for shooting while under the influence of alcohol.
Investigators later determined that Lucas' narrative wasn't supported by the physical evidence: Prosecutors stated the bullet extracted from Tate's chest during a postmortem examination was in "pristine condition,” indicating it hadn't first hit another object, according to CBS Columbia affiliate WLTX.
Prosecutor Barry Barnette said the way Tate was shot could have only been intentional. According to a sheriff’s office release obtained by Fox Greenville affiliate WHNS, deputies agreed.
“The only way the victim could have been struck was for the shooter to turn and intentionally fire in that direction,” the release stated.
Officials upgraded Lucas’ charges to murder. He remains at the Cherokee County detention center, as shown in jail records reviewed by Oxygen.com.
At his bond hearing, Lucas maintained the shooting was a “complete accident,” according to the Associated Press and WLTX.
“I’m really confused about this whole situation,” he told the judge. “I’ve done all kinds of yard work for this lady and everything.”
Local agents, including Cherokee County Sheriff Steve Mueller, stated there were no previous complaints against Lucas in the past concerning his target practice and that no ordinance laws could have prevented Lucas and his friends from shooting on their own property.
However, Lucas has previous convictions in North Carolina for assault and theft, which would have made it illegal for him to possess a firearm as a convicted felon, according to the Associated Press.
Sheriff Mueller also commented on the circumstances surrounding Tate’s death, calling it "senseless."
“It is mind-blowing that a person thinks it’s alright to target practice or discharge a gun within close proximity of so many other homes in a neighborhood,” he told the Associated Press before Lucas’ charges were upgraded to murder.
According to the Columbia outlet, Mueller noted that Tate and Lucas lived in a neighborhood that contains about 40 residential dwellings.
“If that man got to know my sister, he would have never killed her,” said Tate’s sister, Denise Tate. “She would have gave him a place to stay, food to eat, clothes, all of that. Anything he needed, even for his family, she would have helped.”
Another of Tate’s sisters, Beverly Vercher, told WLTX that Tate didn’t “deserve to be gone from her children.”
In light of Tate’s death, loved ones are pushing for the “Kesha Tate Target Law,” aimed at prohibiting gun owners from firing guns in residential neighborhoods.
Loved ones are also pushing to keep the children together and in their care, instead of being separated and in the foster care system. Several of the children’s fathers have passed away.
One of Tate’s daughters, Traleekia Tate, created a GoFundMe page for support.
“I miss her,” said Traleekia. “I just feel like she built me for this.”
Jail records do not list whether or not Lucas has retained an attorney, as well as when he's expected to appear in court.