When Thomasina Stackhouse heard gunfire coming from Watson Park on May 19, she immediately thought of her grandson.
He had been at the basketball courts on the corner of Church Street and Cannon Road in Loris. Stackhouse feared for his safety, but he wasn’t hurt in the shooting. The police had already cordoned off the crime scene by the time the scared grandmother arrived.
Shaquan Cox wasn’t as fortunate. The 20-year-old died in the gunfire. Stephon Antwan Johnson, 26, of Loris stands accused of killing Cox. He is charged with murder and possession of a weapon during a violent crime. Johnson was booked at the J. Reuben Long Detention Center on May 27.
An argument led to the shooting that took Cox's life, according to an affidavit obtained by MyHorryNews. Stackhouse describes the Watson Park area as typically quiet and peaceful. However, she said that sometimes the younger crowd gets into disagreements there, some of which turn violent.
"They get into their feelings and don't know how to control their feelings," Stackhouse said. "Instead of them fighting it out, as they did back in my day, they shoot it out."
The Loris area has seen multiple shootings in recent weeks. Town officials plan to purchase security cameras and increase police patrols following six shootings in the area in the past six months, including three homicides.
Loris City Council discussed the need for additional safety measures during a meeting earlier this month. Loris Police Chief Gary Buley's report highlighted the importance of setting up security cameras specifically at Watson Park.
“There’s a need out there," the police chief said. "I’ve stated that a few times with some of the issues we’ve had out there in the past."
Interim city clerk Keith Massey also added that the buildings surrounding Watson Park have been damaged in the past couple of years.
“It would be wise for us to get something out there to make sure that people aren’t tearing up our buildings or equipment and that our kids are safe,” Massey said.
Directly across the street from the park sits Loris City Council member Joan Gause's home. On a sunny afternoon in Loris, Gause still kept her front door locked and was hesitant to speak about the deadly shooting that took place less than 50 feet from her doorstep.
Despite not wanting to openly talk about the incident, she offered her gratitude regarding Johnson's arrest in connection with the shooting.
"I'm thankful they arrested the guy," Gause said.
In order to acquire the new security cameras, the city will have to follow certain ordinances and state contracts, as well as get bids. Massey said the new cameras can range between $200 and $500 per camera.
“We’ll take a look at all that, look at the systems we currently have and see what’s best,” Massey said. “[The cameras] have all kinds of different features. Different kind of lenses, 360 views and then you have to store it.”
Massey said the recent incidents happening near Watson Park and around the city of Loris has brought more attention to local leaders now than in years past.
Massey echoed with what the mayor and city council said in regards to the importance of the cameras.
“We are not going to drag our feet on this,” Massey said.
In the past month, the Loris area has seen four separate shootings.
- 7:45 p.m., May 19: An argument leads to a deadly shooting in the Watson Park area, taking the life of 20-year-old Shaquan Cox.
- 9 p.m., May 19: Horry County police responded to an incident in the area of Highway 746 in the Loris area. Three people were injured in that shooting, according to Horry County officials. Witnesses told officers that an “unknown sedan drove by the residence at a high rate of speed.” Witnesses did not know how many occupants were in the vehicle and could not recall how many shots were fired, the report said.
- Midnight, June 7: Horry County police responded to the 3000 block of Highway 746 outside of Loris in reference to a shooting. According to a police report, officers spoke with two victims on scene. One victim told police that she was in bed when “a lot of gunfire” woke her up. The second victim's vehicle was hit by several bullets. Neither victim was injured in the incident.
- 1 a.m., June 7: Horry County police responded to another “drive by type shooting” in the area of Bonnie Bay and Patricia Court in the Loris area, according to a heavily redacted report. Police noticed two bullet holes on the outside of the house and was notified by the complainant that no one was injured in the shooting.
Horry County police spokeswoman Mikayla Moskov said the three county shootings remain under investigation. The HCPD has not released any details about possible suspects related to those crimes. County police also refused to discuss whether any of the shootings were connected.
Buley, the Loris chief, mentioned the possibility of gang involvement, though he said there's no evidence linking the crimes.
“We’re still speculating,” Buley said. “It’s the same players. It’s the same people that are doing it. It’s a gang war basically. So we’re speculating but there’s no solid proof that they were related.”
Following the recent incidents, Buley said he has spoken with Horry County police and said they've increased patrols in areas just outside Loris city limits.
The deadly shooting near Watson Park makes it three fatal shootings in the Loris area since the start of the year. On Feb. 11, one person was killed in a shooting on Broad Street in Loris that stemmed from a road rage incident. Less than a month later on March 6, one person was killed and two others were injured in shooting on the 4100 block of Maple Street.
While new security cameras will be great help to the Loris Police Department, Buley said, he also hopes to work with residents to reduce crime.
“If you see something, say something. Call us, let us know and we’ll check it out,” he said. “We can’t be everywhere at once.”
Buley added that the department is looking at doing some community events at Watson Park in an effort to “build back trust with the police.”
“Some of those events we’re talking about would be like a little kickball game or a little basketball game just to get us in the area with our office just to get the community involved and show that we’re not going to tolerate that kind of crime in that area,” Buley said.
Stackhouse tries to remain positive, but she’s concerned for her family.
"It's scary," she said. "I'm trying to not let it consume me, but it's scary."