Antwan Dukes would have turned 18 years old today and graduated from Sumter High School next weekend, but his life was cut short on Jan. 20.
Dukes was found dead in front of an abandoned residence on Wilder Street. His autopsy showed the Sumter teenager was killed by a gunshot. Sumter County investigators and his family are asking the public for information regarding his death.
“There’s not a day that goes by that we don’t think of him,” said Angela Dukes, his mother. “He was loved by everyone.”
Investigators are following leads and seeking more information to bring closure to the Dukes family, according to Deputy Adrienne Sarvis, public information officer for the Sumter County Sheriff’s Office. Further information about a possible motive or anyone involved has not been released publicly.
Duke's mother said there was so much he was looking forward to. Harry Dukes, his father, said his son even doubled his classes after an initial setback at the beginning of high school so he could graduate earlier. He said he loved music.
According to Sumter High School’s administration and staff, Dukes was a focused and driven student who was in a position to graduate early. He planned to move to Atlanta, Georgia, with his father and attend Georgia State University. His goal was to earn degrees in audio engineering and business, and he eventually wanted to own his own business.
Ada Dukes, Dukes' grandmother, said he used to stop by her house every day to spend time with his grandfather.
“I miss him so much,” Ada Dukes said about her grandson.
His mother said her son didn't deserve what happened to him.
"No one deserves to have their child taken out of the world like this," she said. "Please, if you know anything just come out and tell it. You can be anonymous.”
According to Sheriff Anthony Dennis and previous reporting in The Sumter Item, the sheriff’s office has made arrests in seven of the eight homicides in the county so far this year except for the death of Dukes, which is still under investigation. Those other cases have not yet made it through the justice system.
“Antwan had a life full of dreams ahead of him, and I know he would have gone far,” Dennis said. “I’m asking that anyone with even the smallest amount of information to come forward and help bring closure to the Dukes family."
The sheriff's office is offering a $2,000 reward for information that leads to an arrest.
Tips can be submitted by calling the sheriff's office at (803) 436-2002 or Crime Stoppers at 1-888-CRIMESC. Tips can also be submitted electronically by going to www.p3tips.com. Those submitting tips can remain anonymous.
In just five months, the Sumter community has seen the number of homicides almost reach last year’s total of 15, one being unintentional according to law enforcement records.
From January to May, there have been a total of 13 homicides across the city and county, one being a Sumter County Sheriff’s Office deputy killed in the line of duty.
“We think this increase in homicides this year compared to 2019 is attributed to an increase in overall gun violence. We are seeing more young people involved in violent gun crimes; we’re seizing more assault weapons than in the past; and there has also been an increase in the number of incidents where subjects fire weapons at residences,” Dennis said. “I think all of these things play a part in the increase of homicides we’ve seen so far in the county. It seems that more and more people try to handle their disagreements with firearms instead of words. One such incident resulted in the death of one of our deputies.”
Based on data provided by the Sumter County Coroner’s Office, there have been eight homicides in Sumter County and five homicides in the City of Sumter.
The 15 homicides in 2019 was a doubling over 2018.
“We’ve seen more gun violence than ever so far this year," Dennis said, attributing it to an increase in gang and drug violence.
With COVID-19, Dennis said he does not think the pandemic or the governor’ stay-at-home order played a role in the increased number of homicides. Sumter Police Chief Russell Roark said there has been an uptick in crimes against persons since the coronavirus made its presence in the state, though he did not correlate the two.
“We’re deeply concerned about it, and we’ll do our very best to work with it and police it,” Roark said.
While the vast majority, if not all of the slayings have been between family, friends or acquaintances as opposed to stranger-on-stranger, Roark said the homicides that occurred in the city have all been considered unpredictable and difficult to prevent.
“On crimes against persons, it’s almost impossible to predict and, unfortunately, to prevent unless we’re there or receive information from a source,” Roark said. “Most of our homicide issues are domestic-related or relationship-related or criminal-group related.”
Following is a summary of this year's shooting deaths, according to information from the Sumter County Sheriff’s Office and Sumter Police Department.
A Sumter County Sheriff’s Office deputy discovered the body of Montrel Epps, 23, who died of a gunshot wound, during a property check off McCray’s Mill Road after seeing Epps’s vehicle parked in the area. A 20-year-old was arrested in Richland County and faces a murder charge.
The body of Antwan Dukes, 17, was discovered in front of an abandoned residence on Wilder Street. An autopsy showed the Sumter teenager was killed by a gunshot. The investigation is ongoing.
Ebony Canty, 35, was found dead at the Downtown Sumter Motor Inn from what police said was a domestic violence incident. An autopsy showed she died from blunt head trauma and strangulation. A 44-year-old man who reportedly had a relationship with Canty was at the scene and taken into custody. He faces a murder charge.
Maurice Dontae James, 27, was found dead with multiple gunshot wounds in his Seidler Drive residence. Deputies arrested a 17-year-old from Darlington and a 19-year-old from Sumter. Both are charged with murder.
Sumter County Sheriff’s Office Cpl. Andrew Gillette, 36, was killed in the line of duty. While serving a detention order and eviction notice at a house in Dalzell, a man fired multiple shots at him from the residence. The 56-year-old shooter was killed at the scene by return fire.
The bodies of Janio Lopes, 36, of Eastover, and Rachel Ravenell, 44, of Dalzell, were found inside a burning vehicle parked on Foxville Road. Autopsies showed they were killed before the vehicle fire, Lopes from blunt-force trauma to the head and Ravenell from a single apparent gunshot wound to the head. A 34-year-old and 30-year-old were arrested and charged with two counts of murder as well as conspiracy, arson and two counts of desecration of human remains.
Sherrod Carlton Smith, 31, of Wedgefield, was sitting inside his vehicle parked in the backyard of a residence in the 1000 block of South Main Street when an unknown suspect walked up to the vehicle and shot him. Inside the vehicle with Smith was a 37-year-old woman who escaped without harm. The identity of the shooter is not known, and a description is not available. The investigation is continuing.
Roosevelt Durant Jr., 31, of Olanta, was shot during an illegal gathering at a closed down club on Gertie Circle, which violated the governor's stay-at-home mandate at the time.
A 51-year-old from Charlotte, North Carolina, has been charged with murder after he turned himself in to the authorities.
Tarrik Mack-Sumpter, 27, was found wounded and later died in the backyard of his Lewis Road residence. Officers think he died during a planned drug transaction that turned into an armed robbery. A 22-year-old from Bishopville and his 25-year-old girlfriend from Sumter were taken into custody and charged with murder and armed robbery.
Erica Singletary, 30, of Sumter, died after being struck by a vehicle during a dispute that led to fighting and shots being fired in the 200 block of Royal Street. Three Sumter residents have been arrested in connection to the incident. They are a 40-year-old woman, a 34-year-old woman and the victim's 29-year-old brother.
Michael Wilson, 48, was walking out of the A&P Coastal Mart on Boulevard Road when he was approached in the parking and shot. Wilson later died at Prisma Health Tuomey Hospital. A 29-year-old was later arrested and faces a murder charge after he turned himself in.
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