HAMLET — Worries about possible gang retaliation have forced one Richmond County city to cancel its Independence Day festivities.
“Everything’s coming from our murder investigation” into last Wednesday’s shooting death of Tierrell Martin, Hamlet Police Chief Scott Waters said Monday. “People sought us out” to report threats, he said, making calls to Richmond County Crime Stoppers and to police investigators.
“We know somebody’s got to know who killed this young man,” Waters said. But, he added, people who know don’t want to help police — “they want to do it their own way.”
Waters said he was confident the threat of violence was real, and said he could not conscience the risk that an innocent person could be shot.
“I don’t want nobody else shot and killed,” he said. “If an event like that (a shooting) is going to unfold,” no amount of police presence would guarantee safety for those attending, and “I don’t want to look a (bereaved) family in the face and … say, ‘We tried to do our best.’”
Earlier Monday, City Manager Jonathan Blanton said city officials were exercising an “abundance of caution” in response to “multiple threats” delivered during the past weekend.
The city posted the following announcement on its Facebook page:
“The City of Hamlet regrets to announce that the Fourth of July festivities … have been canceled. Due to heightened safety concerns and recent security developments that have been brought to the city’s attention, the City believes that this decision is in the best interest of the safety of our citizens and the community.”
Rumors of payback are thought to be related to gang activity, possibly sparked by the shooting of Martin, 20, of Dobbins Heights. Martin died of a single gunshot wound in an attack at the Circle B convenience store, on N.C. 177 at the northern edge of Hamlet.
In a twist of irony, the store had been the starting place for a march against violence the Saturday before.
Investigators have offered a $500 reward for information that leads to a conviction in the shooting, which was the latest in a rash of violence in Dobbins Heights and north Hamlet over the past year.
The Richmond County Sheriff’s Office is assisting in the investigation.
After charging and releasing one man in the shooting, police are at a dead end in their search for a suspect, Hamlet police say.
Officers have interviewed everyone who appeared in security video footage taken the morning of the shooting, Detective Capt. Randy Dover said last week, but no one reported seeing anything. Dover said the shooter was not captured on camera.
To celebrate the Fourth, city residents were to have gathered for an evening of games and music, food and fireworks at the Hamlet Depot tonight. The event marked Hamlet’s debut as organizer.
Some who saw notice of the cancellation of the events assumed Ellerbe also would abort its fireworks display. That is not the case.
“We’re still a go,” Mayor Lee Berry said midafternoon Monday.
The local Lions Club puts on the Ellerbe fete, which starts at 2 and includes food, games, firefighters aiming hoses at watermelons and other quintessentially small-town events.
Waters encouraged people to attend Ellerbe’s event, making sure to drive safely to and fro.
Reach Christine Carroll at 910-817-2673.