South Carolina authorities have charged three people in connection with a drive-by shooting death of a 6-year-old boy whose house was mistakenly targeted as part of a drug deal.
Winston O’Conner Hunter, 6, was killed in his home on May 13 after the men drove to Orangeburg County from West Columbia, South Carolina to either buy or steal drugs, Orangeburg County Sheriff Leroy Ravenell said at a press conference Sunday. The boy's family had no connection to the three men.
"It all leads back to marijuana," Ravenell said, adding that he has pushed back on efforts to legalize the substance in the state.
"Now, 6-year-old Winston and his family’s house was shot up accidentally," he continued.
Investigators located the men after state agents were able to analyze photos of a vehicle seen near the home around the time of the shooting, narrowing the search down to a 2011-2014 silver Chrysler 200, Ravenell said, The Times and Democrat of Orangeburg reported.
On Friday, New York City law enforcement officials spotted a car fitting the description, leading investigators to the owner of the vehicle in West Columbia, according to the sheriff.
"The vehicle was stopped in New York. They called us with some information. About an hour later, we were in West Columbia with the owner of that vehicle. He was brought in, questioned and taken into custody," Ravenell said.
Ethan Thorne Anderson, a 19-year-old West Columbia resident, was apprehended Friday and faces a murder charge, three counts of attempted murder and four counts of possession of a weapon during the commission of a violent crime.
Anderson told the court during his arraignment Sunday afternoon, "When we were on the way to do such act, I was told if I didn’t act, I would be killed. I was told if I reported my vehicle stolen, I would be killed."
A 17-year-old whose name has not yet been disclosed was also taken into custody on Friday. He will be charged with murder as an adult.
The sheriff’s office announced Monday that Michael Lloyd, 20, had been arrested in Ontario County, New York, and would be charged with murder.
"We had law enforcement across the country looking for these suspects. I said we would not stop until we found them," Ravenell said.
Anderson allegedly confessed to the shooting and implicated the other suspects.
Authorities reportedly believe they have found two of the three firearms used in the fatal shooting.
Another man, Joshua Devon Pettus of Neeses, had turned himself in and the sheriff's office named him a person of interest. Pettus remains a person of interest but has not been charged.
The sheriff emphasized that the child's family will receive justice for their lost loved one.
"I promised them that those cowards that killed Winston would be brought to justice – ‘cowards,’ just in case you missed that," Ravenell said.
The boy's parents told the sheriff that some of the last words he said before he was killed were, "God is great."