The sun burned through a morning haze Wednesday as Greenwood County residents awoke and sought answers to a horrific night of violence that left six people dead.
Greenwood County Sheriff Tony Davis said the suspect, Bryan Eugene Sweatt, 27, of 722 Truett Ave., used a large-caliber handgun to kill the victims and himself. He had an extensive arrest record and was out on bond at the time of the shootings, Davis said.
All of the victims died of gunshot wounds, and Davis said “yes” when asked if they were executed.
Davis said the shootings stemmed from a domestic dispute, and Sweatt died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. The case was considered a murder-suicide, according to an incident report.
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Davis and Greenwood County Coroner Sonny Cox identified other victims as Richard Allen Fields, 51, of 2007 Callison Highway, where the shootings took place; his wife, Melissa Kay Fields, 49, of 2007 Callison Highway; their daughter, Chandra Marie Fields, 26, of 235 Florida Ave.; and their grandchildren, Tariq Kenyon Robinson, 11, of 2007 Callison Highway; and William Asa Robinson, 9, of 2007 Callison Highway.
Chandra Fields had dated Sweatt, Davis said.
A seventh-month-old child was carried to safety during the incident that was first reported with a 911 call at 5:54 p.m. Tuesday, the sheriff said. The child was one of four children who escaped to another house, Davis said.
At the crime scene, yellow crime tape surrounded the single-story residence, located on a wooded lot. Forensics investigators from the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division processed the scene for clues, Davis said.
“I cannot tell you at this particular point that I have all the answers for you,” Davis told reporters.
In 38 years of law-enforcement work, he hasn’t experienced “anything of this magnitude,” Davis said. “Once you see a horrific scene like this, it never leaves you.”
The incident report said a deputy was dispatched to the Callison Highway address after a man called 911 saying “he was feeling on edge” and contemplating suicide.
While en route, dispatchers told the deputy that they could hear a female voice in the background saying, “Do not point that at me,” before the call was disconnected, according to the incident report.
On a 911 tape released by sheriff’s deputies, a male caller in a calm voice can be heard telling a dispatcher he is “just stressed out and I’m about to take my life.”
LISTEN TO 911 CALLS
He doesn’t give his name but tells the dispatcher he has a weapon. Crying is heard in the background and at one point he tells someone “get in there.”
When the dispatcher asks “what’s going on,” the call is disconnected.
A second emergency call came from a neighbor’s house, where the children had fled and said their mother had been shot, according to the incident report.
A neighbor, Jeff Hicks, described the home where the shootings took place as a quiet residence where children often rode four-wheelers on a dirt track in a back field.
Hicks said he had known Richard and Melissa Fields for several years and described them as “good people. They kept to themselves.”
He often casually talked to his neighbors about hog hunting or hunting in general, Hicks said. Richard Fields sometimes would borrow a brush mower and cutter, he said.
“They always had kids in their yard,” including their grandchildren, Hicks said. “The kids must have really loved them because they stayed here all the time.”
He met Sweatt, but “he didn’t make any effort to talk to me,” Hicks said.
“He was just by himself, kind of like a loner,” Hicks said.
Hicks’ home is about 100 yards from the shooting scene, and Hicks said he was home with his daughter Tuesday night when a friend called and warned him not to leave because hostages had been taken nearby.
“Whenever they told me it was three houses down from the church, I said, ‘Well, that’s our driveway,’” Hicks said. “And I never once dreamed it was these people. It’s a tragedy. Children’s lives got lost.”
The Rev. Keith Sweat, pastor of Rehoboth United Methodist Church, less a half mile from the scene, said the community healing had just begun and it would be a long, difficult process.
“It hurts and it’s supposed to hurt,” Sweat said. “It’s not the way things are supposed to be.”
Of the family, he said, “We can hold their hand and look for a reason. But when we get there it will not be good enough for this.”
Davis said the bodies were discovered by a SWAT team that entered the house about 7:35 p.m. Tuesday after several unsuccessful attempts to make contact with those inside.
Davis said Sweatt’s criminal record included arrests primarily on burglary and theft offenses. He was due in court Tuesday and faced 25 to 30 years in prison if convicted, the sheriff said.
As the community attempts to recover, Samantha Parente said she worries about how her family, including her children, will cope.
“You see something like this on the news and of course, it’s always somewhere else,” Parente said. “And so you think it would never happen here, my kids are free to play outside because we feel safe.”
Now, “It’s scary,” she said. “We definitely have lost that sense of security, for our children, especially.”