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2 shot dead after fight between motorcycle clubs at Fort Mill armory

By Jonathan McFadden
jmcfadden@heraldonline.com

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  • Want to help?

    Anyone with information about the shooting deaths of two men at the Fort Mill National Guard Armory on Saturday night is asked to call Fort Mill police at 803-547-2022 or Crime Stoppers of York County at 877-409-4321.



FORT MILL There is no “imminent” threat to the public in the wake of the weekend shooting deaths of two men at a party attended by hundreds of members of motorcycle clubs at Fort Mill’s National Guard Armory, police said Monday.

Police have not identified any suspects or made any arrests in Saturday night’s deadly shootings, which investigators are calling an isolated incident that started after a fight broke out between members of two rival clubs.

“All indications show that it was a motorcycle club-on-club type violence,” said Maj. Bryan Zachary, spokesman for the Fort Mill Police Department.

None of the violence spilled over to neighboring properties, including Fort Mill High School and Saint Philip Neri Catholic Church, he said.

Investigators have determined that one of the motorcycle clubs invited to the party came intent “on creating an issue,” Zachary said. The victims, both from Columbia, were reportedly part of the targeted motorcycle club.

Investigators are still piecing together how events unfolded. They have asked for help from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Rock Hill Police Department and the York County Sheriff’s Office.

Fort Mill officers were called to the armory on Munn Road around 11:30 p.m. Saturday to investigate a fight, according to a police report.

Police found Steve Anthony Vandross, 47, lying in the armory’s front yard, and Reginald Strother, 24, lying on the floor of a restroom inside. Both men had been shot. They were taken to Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte, N.C., where they died, York County Coroner Sabrina Gast said.

The killings are the first homicides in Fort Mill this year.

The armory had been rented by one of the motorcycle clubs, Zachary said, and 400 to 500 people were at the party when police arrived.

“A large number of people left the scene prior to officers’ arriving,” he said. “We had five officers respond initially to a scene (where) they were literally outnumbered 100 to 1.

“Unfortunately, in a situation like that – where you already have people bent on leaving the area as quickly as possible and avoiding contact with police – it makes it difficult to detain any individuals.”

The Triple R motorcycle club, based in Lancaster County, was the host of the party, which was the culmination of a weekend of events designed to celebrate the club’s third anniversary, according to postings on the group’s Facebook page.

“We hate what happened,” said Marko Thompson, Triple R’s business manager. “For two people to lose their lives is terrible. That’s not what the biker community is about. That’s not what we’re about at all.”

Police had not been not notified of the party beforehand, Zachary said. It’s common for police to make their presence known when they are informed about events that could draw big crowds.

But that’s “nothing specific to a motorcycle club,” he said.

“It’s beneficial, obviously, that we’re aware than an event is taking place any time the volume of attendees is anything close to what we had here – not just from the standpoint of security, but from the standpoint of the traffic-related issues.”

Officers also were not informed that alcohol would be served at the party, Zachary said. People asking for alcohol permits to sell drinks at special events typically contact local police to obtain approval at least 15 days before the event, he said.

Anniversary celebration

Triple R’s festivities started Friday night, with bowling at Strikers Family Sports Center in Rock Hill. On Saturday afternoon, the group hosted a cookout at which guests were asked to bring nonperishable food items to donate to Hope in Lancaster, a nonprofit agency that provides residents in need with short-term assistance on rent, mortgage, electricity and other essentials.

More than 100 people crowded into the armory for Saturday night’s party, Thompson said, “to celebrate with us and show love.” Bike clubs from New York, New Jersey, Michigan, Ohio, Georgia, Florida and other states attended.

Vandross and Strother were members a motorcycle club based in Lexington County, Thompson said.

“We’ve never been involved in any incident like that,” Thompson said, adding that the club has hosted parties at the armory, at clubs in Rock Hill and at other venues “without incident.”

Triple R, comprising 15 members, started in Lancaster County as a group of friends who grew up together in the same neighborhood.

“The basis of our club is giving back to the community,” Thompson said. “We do Toys for Tots (and) clothes and food drives for the homeless on a regular basis. We have two community events a month.”

In March 2012, Triple R members joined several Lancaster residents and police to march against violence in memory of Jenika Jones, a 23-year-old mother who had been shot to death in her home two months earlier.

Others who attended the party were surprised that violence erupted.

“No one wants to go out nowhere and experience no trouble,” said Chiyoka Clyburn, who tended bar at the party. “That’s not what it was like. The atmosphere wasn’t even like that.”

Clyburn said she heard that “something was going on,” but she said didn’t see any fighting or gunfire.

“Maybe the wrong people happened to come there,” she said, adding that she tended bar at a party at the armory last year and it was “awesome.”

Clyburn, a biker herself, said “everybody was welcome” at the party.

“As far as any organization or any group with people gathered together – they should show more love or support for one another, not against each other,” she said.

One National Guard employee, a noncommissioned officer tasked with facilitating the group’s use of the armory, was at the armory at the time of the shooting.

The National Guard has rented out the Fort Mill armory to Triple R at least two times before without any problems, said Maj. Cynthia King, a spokeswoman for the South Carolina National Guard.

“We have fashion shows, ROTC units, weddings, fraternities, sororities – all kinds of groups in the community that rent the armories,” she said.

Jonathan McFadden •  803-329-4082
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