Crime & Courts

10 years: Final suspect sentenced in 2011 Five Points beating of teen

The final suspect in the 2011 beating of a Columbia teen in Five Points was sentenced Thursday to prison, bringing an end to a case that changed perceptions of Five Points and cemented the public’s support for video surveillance on the city’s streets.

Most of all, Yahquann Gantt’s admission that he ambushed and beat then-18-year-old Carter Strange brought relief to the victim and his family, who have endured dozens of court hearings where they have had to relive the gruesome details of the attack.

Carter Strange did not attend the hearing, but his mother, Vicki Strange, told Circuit Court Judge Michael Nettles the experience has forever changed their family.

“They haven’t lived with us the last 31/2 years,” Vicki Strange said of those who beat her son. “They don’t know what our family has gone through. Until someone decides your child’s life isn’t worth anything, you have no idea how I feel.

“It changes a person.”

Nettles sentenced the 19-year-old Gantt to 10 years in prison on charges of assault and battery of a high and aggravated nature, robbery and criminal conspiracy. Gantt will get credit for time served. He has been in jail awaiting trial since his arrest in June 2011.

The attack riled the public and gained national attention because of its brutality.

In Columbia, the public already was growing concerned about Five Points safety, and people feared gangs were taking over the area. The assault also inflamed racial tension, because Carter Strange is white and his attackers are black. Multiple news conferences were held in Five Points as police and Mayor Steve Benjamin tried to calm the situation.

Because surveillance cameras led to quick arrests, Five Points merchants installed more video cameras. Today, the area is monitored by more than 200 cameras.

Gantt was one of eight teens, ranging in age from 13 to 19, who attacked Strange as he jogged home through Five Points to meet his parents’ midnight curfew. Four teens chased down Strange and began punching and kicking him. Another four waited by their cars while the assault happened.

The eight teens were caught after police released video footage of them roaming Five Points June 20, the night of the attack. Video footage showed them following other people in the area that night before they attacked Strange, said prosecutor Dolly Garfield.

Tyheem Henry, who was named the ringleader in the assault, was reported to have been saying he “wanted to get some wreck,” using street slang for fighting, she said.

“It is my belief that these individuals were roaming through Five Points looking for prey and Carter Strange was their prey,” Garfield said. “Yahquann Gantt crossed the street to help herd the prey.”

Gantt, who was 16 at the time, also took Strange’s cellphone. When Gantt first spoke with police, he lied about his role in the attack, Garfield said. But he then cooperated, helping police and prosecutors piece together what had happened, she said.

Gantt, who was wearing an orange Alvin S. Glenn Detention Center jumpsuit and long underwear with tattered sleeves in court Thursday, made a quick apology to the Strange family.

The family said they have suffered immensely.

Strange, who had just graduated from Dreher High School, was found unconscious by passersby around 2 a.m. He was beaten so badly his parents have said they did not recognize him in the emergency room.

The family was left with nearly $100,000 in medical bills after Strange spent time in an intensive care unit and had brain surgery.

The family also has dealt with the emotional trauma of the attack.

Thursday, Vicki and John Strange said their family had been torn

The beating ruined what was to have been a joyful summer as the Strange family watched Carter Strange graduate from high school and enter adulthood.

He had planned to take a year’s break from school and then go to college. He has never enrolled but has chosen to work, John Strange said.

Carter Strange also moved to Greenville to put distance between himself and the attack. His parents said they only have seen him about five times since he left. “He ran from everything,” John Strange said. “We see flashes of the old Carter, but he’s still not the same person. He has hardened.”