'I'm going to pay you back': 3 teens dead in barrage of gunfire; 3 classmates face charges

Three teenagers are dead and three others are facing charges following a shooting in South Carolina in what a local sheriff called a chaotic scene of revenge stemming from "a beef" two years ago.

The three teens killed, who were 16 and 17 years old, died at a hospital following Sunday's shooting, Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott said during a news conference in the state capital of Columbia on Monday.

A fourth shooting victim, who is 14, was also shot taken to a hospital and later released, Lott said.

"It's a sad day," Lott told reporters, saying the shooting was "over something stupid."

"Over something that happened a couple a years ago. Why?" he said. "Why can't these kids do something else besides just resort to violence and using guns?"

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Coroner identifies victims, 3 other teens arrested:

The Richland County Coroner's office identified the victims as Caleb Wise, 16, JaKobe Fanning, 16, and Dre’von Riley, 17.

They died as a result of multiple gunshot wounds and their manner of death was homicide, coroner's spokesperson Jeffrey Lampkin told USA TODAY.

The sheriff's office announced Tuesday that they arrested two 17-year-old boys and a 14-year-old boy in connection with the shooting.

All three face charges of murder, attempted murder, possession of a weapon during a violent crime and possession of handgun under the age of 18, sheriff's office Deputy Veronica Hill said.

USA TODAY does not typically name minors facing charges unless they're being tried as adults.

All the teenagers, Lott said, attended Alcorn Middle School and Eau Claire High School.

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A mourning middle and high school

JaKobe was in ninth grade; Dre'von was in 10th and Caleb was in 11th grade, said Karen York, a spokesperson for the Richland County School District.

"The Richland One family is grieving the loss of three young lives to senseless gun violence," District Superintendent Craig Witherspoon said in a statement Tuesday. "This is an unimaginable tragedy, and we ask everyone to keep the students’ families and the students and staff at Eau Claire High School in your thoughts and prayers."

He said crisis counselors were available to students and staff at the school and that there would be additional security on campus as a precaution.

A 'chaotic' scene part of a reported payback

Richland County Sheriff's Leon Lott addresses reporters about arrests made in a shooting that killed three teenagers and injured a fourth in Columbia, South Carolina on Sunday, Sept. 26, 2023.
Richland County Sheriff's Leon Lott addresses reporters about arrests made in a shooting that killed three teenagers and injured a fourth in Columbia, South Carolina on Sunday, Sept. 26, 2023.

The four boys who were shot were sitting in front of a vacant house around 2 p.m. Sunday when two 17-year-olds approached them and unleashed a barrage of bullets on them, according to information from Lott and a redacted incident report obtained by USA TODAY.

"It was a chaotic scene with so many victims, so many gunshots being fired," Lott said.

The shooting suspects then followed the victims as they fled to the backyard and continued firing, according to the incident report. It was unclear how the 14-year-old who was arrested was tied to the shooting.

Although the shooting remained under investigation Tuesday, the suspected motive stemmed from a “beef” Lott said occurred two years ago over a burglary.

“A beef that just continues to grow and then young people decide that they’re going to solve it by shooting,” Lott said. "You have three teens who will never see adulthood just because of what? A disagreement? 'I don't like you, you did something to me so I'm going to pay you back, so I'm going to kill you."

He did not share any other details about the previous dispute.

'It takes a village'

During Monday's press conference, Lott was joined by Witherspoon, Richland County Councilwoman Gretchen Barron, State Rep. Kambrell Garvin, and local pastor Aaron Bishop "to discuss the importance of coming together to stop senseless tragedies like this," the department posted on Facebook.

“It takes a village to raise a young person,” Lott said. “We have a strong village of educators, community leaders, and elected officials, but we need everyone to come together to help save our young people. We are losing too many.”

Natalie Neysa Alund is a senior correspondent for USA TODAY. Reach her at nalund@usatoday.com and follow her on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter @nataliealund.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: 3 South Carolina teens killed in hail of gunfire in Columbia