GREENVILLE COUNTY, SC (FOX Carolina) The Greenville County Sheriff's Office says they're actively investigating after two people were killed and eight others injured in a shooting along White Horse Road early Sunday morning.
According to a media release, a deputy was traveling along the roadway around 1:50 a.m. when they observed a disturbance at Lavish Lounge.
"We didn't get a call," Greenville County Sheriff Hobart Lewis said. "A deputy was literally driving by here and saw the commotion and had the courage, with probably one hundred people in the parking lot, to pull in and find out what was going on."
The deputy reportedly called for backup, due to active gunfire heard from within the building. Multiple law enforcement officials, including those from Greenville City Police and the South Carolina Highway Patrol, responded to assist.
Sheriff Lewis says multitudes of people had come outside the club prior to and during officers' arrival. Surveillance footage determined some shots were fired outside the building's doors.
Several gunshot victims were located inside and four were transported by EMS to an area hospital. Officials say the Sheriff's Office Communications Center also received word that several other victims had been taken to a hospital in personal vehicles.
The Greenville Coroner's Office confirms two people succumbed to their injuries. Later Sunday afternoon, the Coroner's Office identified the deceased as a 51-year-old man and a 23-year-old woman.
Clarence Sterling Johnson passed away at Greenville Memorial Hospital around 2:52 a.m. after suffering a gunshot wound. Sheriff Lewis says Johnson was a security guard who was hit by gunfire while standing right next to the front of the stage, near the front entrance.
Lewis said Johnson was well-known in the area, well liked, and non-confrontational.
Mykala Bell was also transported to Greenville Memorial with a gunshot wound, and unfortunately succumbed to her injuries around 3:17 a.m.
"She was absolutely an innocent victim," Sheriff Lewis said. "Truly the definition of an innocent bystander."
Deputies say the eight other victims' injuries range from non-life threatening to critical.
Sandy Dees with Prisma Health said that as of 2 p.m. Sunday, all but two of the victims had been released from Prisma Health Greenville Memorial Hospital.
"I would just encourage people to pray for this community," Sheriff Lewis said. "Pray for the families that are involved, and pray for the families of the people that were here and just didn't get injured that had to experience this."
IN OPERATION DURING PANDEMIC
There were around 200 people inside the building at the time of the incident, the sheriff said - which is a violation of coronavirus social distancing enforcement.
South Carolina Governor McMaster has continued to enforce restrictions on spectator sports, movie theaters, performance venues, concerts, nightclubs, even high school and college football games will remain in place until the state's COVID-19 numbers begin to decline.
Sheriff Lewis says that in addition to being in operation, the nightclub was also hosting a concert.
"It's unacceptable and it cost two people their life," Lewis said of the operation of the club despite orders from the governor. "They need to be held accountable."
Sheriff Lewis has spoken with Governor McMaster, who he says has offered his support and any assistance his office can provide to help with the investigation.
Sheriff Lewis says his agency is working with the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division and the South Carolina Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation in the investigation and are looking revoke the club's alcohol and business licenses.
"I am using every resource to have the license revoked for the operation of Lavish Lounge," the sheriff said Monday. "We are working with SLED, DOR, LLR and County Council. Each has provided immediate resources to this issue."
NIGHTCLUB WAS HOSTING CONCERT FOR RAP ARTIST
FOX Carolina reviewed a slew of social media posts tied to the shooting, with some mentioning Georgia-based rap artist Foogiano in them. The verified Facebook page for him still had a post promoting the concert as late as 7:30 p.m. Sunday.
Foogiano, whose legal name is Kwame Brown, is represented by Atlantic Records. We reached out to them for comment but have not heard back.
POSSIBLE GANG RELATION
By 8:45 a.m. Sunday, investigators had made their way into the building and were collecting evidence. Sheriff Lewis said large amounts of blood, shell casings and personal property could be found within the club.
The concert reportedly began around 1 a.m. Lewis says it went on for about forty minutes before surveillance footage revealed some sort of altercation took place in front of the stage. At that point, the sheriff says someone fired a shot - setting off a chain of events.
Lewis says that some of the people involved in the incident are known gang members. Through their investigation, Sheriff Lewis says his agency believes the shooting was gang related. Based on surveillance video, some gang signs were reportedly flashed throughout the performance.
From examining the surveillance footage further, Sheriff Lewis says investigators believe the weapons used were brought in through the back of the club.
Multiple suspects are being sought, with some who are not in Greenville. The sheriff says his agency will most likely require assistance from other jurisdictions in their investigation.
Sheriff Lewis said the club has a history for many calls for service, including some shootings and fights.
A security guard was shot just down the road at Dolce early Saturday morning. However, Sheriff Lewis says the two incidents are not related.
PHOTOS OF PERSONS OF INTEREST RELEASED
GCSO eventually released an image showing four persons of interest in the shooting. Investigators say they have reason to believe the photographed individuals are from Atlanta, and are asking for help identifying them.
GCSO also released an individual photo of one of the individuals being sought. This person is the same one shown in the top left photo of all four.
Anyone with information on the incident is encouraged to call CrimeStoppers at 23-CRIME.
"We're better than this, we are," Sheriff Lewis said. "Greenville does not need to be on national news, especially for something like this where you have an incident where ten people were shot."
"It's not what anybody wants here, by any stretch of the imagination," Lewis continued. "So, keep this community in your prayers, keep the men and women who keep you safe in your prayers. I think it's time for everybody to truly come together and support each other."
Stay with FOX Carolina for updates.