Three men were shot and one other assaulted after a fight in the parking lot of a Rock Hill sports bar early Saturday, deputies say. One of the victims shot, authorities say, was possibly a bystander.
At about 2 a.m. Saturday, deputies were called to the Palmetto Sports Bar at the intersection of Firetower and Porter roads, according to a York County Sheriff's news release. There, they found three people with gunshot wounds and one victim "who appeared to have been physically assaulted."
Two of the shooting victims were taken to Piedmont Medical Center, the release states. The third shooting victim and the assault victim were both taken to Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte, said Trent Faris, Sheriff's Office spokesman.
One of the victims has been identified as a possible suspect in the investigation, Faris said, but he was unable to disclose which one.
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"Everybody involved is accounted for," he said. "There's not a shooter running around."
Deputies believe gunfire followed an argument in the parking lot that escalated, Faris said.
"We don't know what the fight was about yet," he said. "Everybody else was inside the bar."
There were no other witnesses to the shooting, he said, adding that deputies believe one of the shooting victims might have just been a bystander who stood nearby in the parking lot and was struck by a bullet.
That bystander is Ashley Hargett's 25-year-old cousin, she said Saturday morning outside the bar, searching for her keys that were lost when the shots went off and bar patrons hit the ground for cover.
When employees started closing the bar at about 1:40 a.m., patrons spilled out toward the front of the building, Hargett said. "And then, all of a sudden, absolute mayhem busts loose," she said.
Hargett said she had just walked out the door when she heard "four, five or six gunshots." Everyone near the front of the building "hit the ground," while some tried to run outside.
"It was a bad night," she said. "It blows my mind how everybody could be having a wonderful night" and then chaos erupts.
For residents of the area, the Palmetto Sports Bar is "your home bar you go to all the time," where patrons have formed bonds so tightly knit that they're like family, Hargett said. In the nearly two years she's spent her weekends there with friends and family, she can't recall there ever being a fight.
In 2009, Craig Stephens Furcron, who allegedly threatened bystanders that he was a Hells Angels gang member, was sentenced to 10 years in prison after a jury found him guilty of stabbing a man in the chest after an argument over a parking space outside the bar.
Hargett said she doesn't know what Saturday's fight was about, but she does know all the men involved. She had no word on their conditions, other than hearing that at least one man was shot three times. Her cousin, she said, is "fine."
"For all this to happen, it's like what the heck?" she said. "I don't understand."
By Saturday evening, deputies had not released the names of the victims or reported any developments in the investigation. Efforts to reach the bar’s owner were unsuccessful Saturday.
The bar, which maintains a separate bartenders page on Facebook, wrote on the social media website that the fight came at the conclusion of an employee’s birthday celebration. A party guest – a “newcomer” – became involved in an argument with two regulars in the back parking lot.
“It's unfortunate that he did not learn a more effective way to handle his issues than with a gun, but he didn't, and a couple of boys we know were shot during the conflict,” bar employees wrote on Facebook. “Both are going to be ok, thankfully (sic).”
The bar plans to cooperate with police in the investigation by reviewing all video surveillance, permanently ban anyone directly responsible for Saturday’s altercation and continue current policies “of ejecting any patrons” who seem more interested in “creating trouble than in having a good time.”
“All of us at Palmetto work hard to provide a fun, safe environment for people to come together to celebrate and socialize. It's what we love, and we are fortunate to have a great bunch of people who normally come here, people that we have formed friendships with, and whom we appreciate, because without them we wouldn't be here.”
They added: “We are all saddened that this particular night turned out the way it did, and will do everything possible to prevent anything like this from happening again. I wish we could guarantee it, but with such events unfolding daily in the news, no one can make such a promise, in any venue, be it bar, school, mall, or anyplace else.