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Chester leaders urge action to curb gang violence

Deputies charged a fifth man Wednesday in connection with the drive-by shooting of Chester City Councilman Odell Williams, saying the arrest likely wraps up the case that has shaken Chester to its core as police and the community push back against gang threats and violence.

Terrance Williams Buchanan, 25, of Chester, was charged with being an accessory before the fact to murder. Three other men face that same charge, which carries up to life in prison or the death penalty upon conviction.

Arrest warrants allege that Buchanan, Christopher Moore, Quinton McClinton, DeAngelo Roseboro and Derrick Dixon “participated in a shooting incident that resulted in the death of Odell Williams.” Police have identified Moore, 18, who also is charged with murder, as the shooter.

Investigators say they have DNA evidence, fingerprints and witness statements that implicate all five.

Buchanan, who has been convicted twice on drug offenses, has been free on $5,000 bond since December on another drug-related charge, court records show. That charge came just two months after Buchanan was arrested on drug-related charges in October 2013, court records show.

McClinton, 25, another of the accused who has served prison time for drug and gun crimes, was out on bond on nine charges – including attempted murder – when he was arrested last week in connection with Williams’ killing.

Chester County Sheriff Alex Underwood and Chief Deputy Robert Sprouse said police do not expect additional arrests in connection with the Nov. 4 shooting.

Williams, 69, who retired after more than 20 years as a Chester police officer, was shot in the head in a drive-by shooting that followed an earlier confrontation involving the defendants, Underwood has said.

Williams, a city councilman since 1997, was known in Chester for trying to help young men through church activities, sports teams, Boy Scouts and job opportunities with his concrete business, Williams Concrete Works. He was killed just blocks from his home and office.

Gang ties

The Nov. 4 killing has spurred a renewed call for community action against gangs in Chester. Underwood said all five in custody have ties to the Roundtree Circle Gang.

Chester County Councilman Alex Oliphant had talked to Williams earlier that day about construction projects Williams was working on for him.

“One minute I am talking to him, and the next I hear he is killed in a shooting,” said Oliphant, a Chester businessman. “And then the sheriff says that the shooting might be gang related.”

Oliphant and other leaders want to see more action on dealing with gangs in the aftermath of the shooting – especially after Underwood said he and his deputies had been threatened by gang members while investigating the murder.

Many in Chester have expressed fear of retaliation for reporting gang activity to police, Oliphant said, and he regularly hears from people about gang activity.

“I can understand how some people are fearful, but they need to call 911,” he said. “Or they can call me, and I will call the police for them. I’ll call about any person feeling threatened by gangs in a second.”

Underwood has declined to say specifically what threats were made by gangs, or if Williams was targeted in the crime because he was a retired police officer.

Police identified at least six gangs operating in the county after shootings over the past four years that rocked the small city of about 5,500 people in a county of about 33,000 residents.

It remains unclear why Williams was targeted. Police have said the shooting followed an incident earlier in the day at another location, but they have provided no details. Amid at least 17 shots fired on Roundtree Circle that night, Williams was hit once in the head. Police say an assault rifle was the murder weapon.

Chester City Councilman William Killian hopes the city can move forward in dealing with gang violence now that the five men charged in connection with Williams’ killing are in jail.

“We need to resolve the gang issue, the gang problem,” Killian said. “They have the suspects in this crime in custody, so now we can look at making the community safer.”

The sheriff’s office and Chester police will continue to operate a combined anti-gang unit, Chester police spokeswoman Keshia Tobias said.

Police in Chester County – among South Carolina’s poorest counties with high unemployment – have long said gangs are involved in drug activity and other crimes. Earlier this summer, another alleged member of the Roundtree Circle Gang was charged with killing a teenager in the middle of a Chester street.

After Williams’ shooting, Underwood said he has “declared war on gangs in Chester County.”

Killian and Oliphant support police efforts to make Chester’s streets safe from gangs.

“Those people in neighborhoods with gangs need to be able to walk around, live their lives, without fear of being intimidated or being shot,” Oliphant said. “Good will prevail over evil in Chester.”