GREENVILLE, S.C. (AP) — A shooting at a nightclub early Sunday left two people dead and eight wounded in South Carolina, a sheriff’s official said.
Two Greenville County sheriff’s deputies noticed a disturbance at Lavish Lounge just before 2 a.m., and saw a large crowd running out of the building, Sheriff Hobart Lewis said at a press conference. There was “active gunfire from inside the building,” Lt. Jimmy Bolt said in an initial statement, and Lewis said all the shots were fired inside.
“I was in bed and all of a sudden you hear this ‘Pow! Pow! Pow! Pow! Pow!,'” local resident Mike Riley told the Greenville News. Riley said he heard four or five shots. He said he’s been worried about the club before Sunday morning’s shooting — both about violence and whether the club is violating rules designed to slow the spread of the coronavirus. He wants it shut down. “It’s a danger to everyone.”
Lewis and Bolt initially said 12 people had been wounded — with at least four in critical condition, Lewis said — but Bolt told The Associated Press that two victims were likely counted twice in the confusion at the hospital.
No one was immediately taken into custody. Bolt told the AP that the sheriff’s office was looking for two suspects, but couldn’t provide names or descriptions.
“We don’t really have a person of interest that we can name,” Lewis said at the press conference, later adding that authorities weren’t sure what led to the gunfire.
Lewis said a “very large crowd” was at the nightclub for “some type of concert.” A post on Lavish Lounge’s Facebook page advertised a July 4 performance by trap rapper Foogiano. An Instagram direct message from the AP wasn’t immediately returned, but a bookings representative told the AP via text message that Foogiano was fine and his team was safe.
Coronavirus cases in South Carolina have risen swiftly and the state’s rate of positive tests is three times the recommended level. In late June, Greenville — which has experienced some of the state’s highest COVID-19 rates — became thefirst city to mandate face coverings in South Carolina. Gov. Henry McMaster has refused to implement a statewide mask requirement.
McMaster reminded South Carolinians last week that he hadn’t lifted restrictions on large crowds, and that those operating nightclubs illegally or holding concerts against his orders don’t have to be caught in the act to face criminal charges, but instead could be charged weeks later if COVID-19 cases are traced back.
Under restrictions imposed by McMaster in March to restrict the spread of the coronavirus, gatherings of 50 or more people in a single room are off-limits. It was not immediately clear how many people were in the club at the time of the shooting.
Lewis said at the press conference that he didn’t know whether the club had sought an exemption to the governor’s order or secured a permit for Saturday night’s event, but said it was clear that the club’s patrons weren’t 6 feet (2 meters) apart.
“It’s certainly not the best situation to stop the spread of this virus,” the sheriff said.
Bolt said the question of whether the club was in violation of the coronavirus guidelines was a civil, not criminal matter, and has been referred to the governor’s office.
A phone call and an Instagram direct message from the AP to Lavish Lounge weren’t immediately returned, but the club posted on Facebook just before 6 a.m. that events “have been postponed until further notice.”
Lewis said the victims, whose names were not immediately released, were taken to the Prisma Health hospital in Greenville, some via private vehicle. Bolt said that of the eight wounded, some had non-life-threatening injuries and others were in critical condition, but he didn’t have a tally of the latter. He said one person has been discharged from the hospital.
Prisma Health spokesperson Tammie Epps said she did not know how many victims were in critical condition.
Associated Press journalists Mallika Sen in Los Angeles and Rebecca Santana in New Orleans contributed to this report.