Review Category : Beaufort News

Burton Fire District rescues trapped driver

The Burton Fire District and Beaufort County EMS responded to a single vehicle accident on Monday, Dec. 15, evening which resulted in the injured driver having to be rescued.

Burton fire crews were dispatched to a report of a motor vehicle accident on Joe Frazier Road just before 7 p.m. yesterday. Initial reports stated children were trapped inside. Firefighters arrived on scene and found a Ford Explorer on its side facing oncoming traffic, and the female driver trapped inside and yelling for help.

Firefighters had to remove the vehicle’s roof to remove the driver who appeared to have non-life threatening injuries. The driver was wearing a seatbelt. It took two fire engines and five firefighters 15 minutes to rescue the driver. Firefighters searched the scene but found no children who were later confirmed to be at home.

The driver was transported to Beaufort Memorial Hospital by Beaufort County EMS.

Burton Fire File photo

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City proposes beautification program

With the goal of improving Beaufort’s landscaped appearance while saving money, a proposed ordinance amendment asks city residents to mow and maintain public rights of way within the city limits.

The proposal states “it is reasonably the responsibility of owners or occupants to maintain their property up to the street line,” including any public right of way.

“Beaufort already is known for its beauty, and we have the national magazine awards and local pride to show for that,” Beaufort City Manager Scott Dadson said. “What we are trying to do with this (proposed amendment) is find ways to keep our street rights of way even cleaner and more attractive.”

Within the Beaufort city limits there are about 194 miles of roads, including all the annexed areas and military installations.  This includes roads created by developers, federal, state, county, and city governments inside the city limits.

Of those 194 miles of roads, only 11 miles — about 5 percent — formally belong to the city, said Isiah Smalls, Beaufort’s director of public works and facilities management.

“What we are looking for is a way to make our city more visually appealing by asking our residents to help out with mowing the grass on public rights of way,” Smalls said. “This amendment doesn’t require additional landscaping or any special skills beyond using a lawn mower once in awhile. The potential savings to our city budget are pretty substantial.”

Under the current schedule, city crews or contractors mow every street in Beaufort four times annually. Gateways to the city and major thoroughfares — such as Boundary Street, SC 170 and Ribaut Road — are mowed weekly.

The ordinance amendment could eliminate or at least reduce the need to maintain the residential street landscaping, saving the city approximately $108,000 per year, Smalls said. If the ordinance was expanded to all commercial properties along major thoroughfares and gateways, it could possibly save an additional $150,000.

That combined $258,000 in potential savings is more than one-third of Beaufort’s total annual budget for streets, Smalls said.

If approved by Beaufort City Council, the amended ordinance would give a five-day grace period after a resident is notified of violating the rule – after that time, fines would be enforced.

“Many residents of Beaufort already take care of the rights of way to the street line of their properties,” Smalls said. “This change really talks to the property owners who don’t maintain the area between their property line and the edge of the pavement. We want to achieve a manicured appearance on every city street, as much as possible.”

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News briefs

Sheriff’s Office investigates stolen ATM

The Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office is investigating a burglary that occurred early last Friday morning at an Okatie area convenience store.

Just after 4 a.m. on Dec. 12, deputies responded to an activated alarm at the Enmark gas station (101 Commerce Place E). Upon arrival, it was immediately apparent that business had been burglarized.

In review of the surveillance footage, it was determined that two unknown black males had made entry to the store by prying open the front door. Once inside, the suspects removed the ATM, which they loaded into an SUV parked in front of the store.

Both suspects were wearing dark clothing with masks concealing their faces, and their vehicle appeared to be a dark colored GMC Yukon or Chevy Suburban.

Anyone with information is asked to contact either Investigator PFC C. LaVan at 843-255-3313 or Crimestoppers.

Robbery suspect facing additional charges

The suspect arrested last week by Port Royal Police Department for a robbery outside a laundromat has been charged by the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office in two additional incidents.

In addition to the Dec. 11 robbery outside Port Royal’s Suds City Laundromat, 30-year-old Andrew Lee Brown, Jr. has also now been charged with 2nd degree Assault and Battery, Possession of a Weapon During the Commission of a Violent Crime, and Attempted Kidnapping.

Based on the similar suspect description provided by the victims in a series of violent encounters that occurred last week, investigators with both Port Royal Police Department and the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office believed that they were looking for the same person. During the course of the ensuing investigations, Brown was positively identified in the Port Royal Suds City incident and the following two incidents:

• Just after 6 a.m. last Wednesday, deputies met with a male victim at the Stop and Go Convenience Store (430 Parris Island Gtwy) who advised that he’d been approached by an unknown black male. The suspect had lewdly propositioned him, and when the victim declined, the suspect grabbed the victim’s genitals and fled the area in a dark colored pickup truck.

• At approximately 6:30 a.m. the following morning, a male victim was walking his dog outside The Oaks at Broad River Landing (75 Riverchase Blvd) when he was approached by an unknown black male in a dark colored pickup truck. The suspect brandished a handgun and told the victim to let go of his dog and get into the suspect’s truck. The victim refused to comply and the suspect eventually gave up and drove away, leaving the victim unharmed.

Two additional, similar incidents that include a strong arm robbery at Shell Point Recreational Park and an attempted armed robbery in the area of Grober Hill Road and Parris Island Gateway remain under active investigation.

Anyone with information is asked to contact either Investigator Sgt. C. Wilson at 843-255-3409 or Crimestoppers.

Beaufort man sentenced for robbery

On Thursday, December 11th, 2014, a Beaufort County jury found Jujuan Andre Habersham guilty of armed robbery, attempted armed robbery, possession of a weapon during a violent crime and possession of a weapon by a person convicted of a crime of violence. The trial lasted two days. Judge Craig Brown sentenced Habersham to thirty years in prison.

On June 19, 2011, Habersham robbed two people at gunpoint in downtown Beaufort. The victims were leaving a restaurant and walking through the marina parking lot around 2:30 AM when Habersham approached and demanded their money and other belongings.

Habersham fled and was located several days later in Hardeeville after using the victim’s stolen credit card. Upon arrest, he admitted to being present for the robbery but not being armed.

Habersham’s prior convictions include strong arm robbery, four counts of forgery, contributing to the delinquency of a minor, third degree assault and battery and possession of marijuana.

“I am very pleased with the verdict,” Assistant Solicitor Mary Jordan Lempesis stated. “Beaufort County is a safer place with Jujuan Habersham behind bars.”

Habersham is not eligible for parole. He must serve at least 85 percent of the sentence before he is eligible for release.

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Tips to keep your home safe this holiday season

Here are some tips to keep your home safe this holiday season, from the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office:

• Be extra cautious about locking doors and windows when you leave your house or apartment, even for a few minutes.

• Don’t display holiday gifts where they can be seen from a window or doorway. Store gifts before you go away on a holiday trip.

• If you go out for the evening, turn on lights and a radio or television so the house or apartment appears to be occupied.

• If you take a holiday trip away from your home, have some interior lights activated by an automatic timer. Have a neighbor or family member watch your house, shovel new snow, pick up the mail and newspaper and park his or her motor vehicle in your driveway from time to time.

• Participate in Operation Identification and mark your valuables with a unique identification number.

• Be wary of strangers soliciting for charitable donations. They may attempt to take advantage of people’s generosity during the holidays. Ask for identification, how donated funds are used, if contributions are tax deductible, etc. If you aren’t satisfied with the answers, don’t give.

• Immediately after the holidays, mark new gifts with an identification number and record new serial numbers.

• Test your smoke detectors.

• Use only fire resistant ornaments on a holiday tree and make sure electric lights are in good working order. Don’t leave the lights on overnight or when you are away from home.

• If you have house guests, advise them of your security precautions and make sure they follow them.

• Avoid leaving boxes from purchases (especially TV’s, VCR’s, computer, etc.) out on the curb for trash pickup.

Holiday Party Safety

• Have non-alcoholic beverages available for party guests.

• Serve something to eat before serving alcoholic beverages. High protein foods stay in the stomach longer and slow absorption of alcohol into the system.

• Have alternative transportation for intoxicated persons. Don’t let guests drink and drive.

Season’s Greetings!

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Beaufort City Council loses two, gains two new

As newly elected Beaufort City Councilmen Phil Cromer and Stephen Murray formally started their jobs Tuesday, Dec. 9, Beaufort Mayor Billy Keyserling praised outgoing council members Donnie Beer and Mike Sutton.

Beer served on City Council for 24 years and lost her bid for re-election in November; Sutton stepped down due to his self-imposed two term limit.

“The City of Beaufort could not have been served any better than by Donnie Beer and Mike Sutton,” Keyserling said. “We are a city of diversity, and they both touched the many people who live across the city, not just in their neighborhoods.”

Cromer is a former town administrator in Port Royal and Ridgeland while Murray is a Beaufort-born businessman and entrepreneur. They join Keyserling, Mike McFee and George O’Kelley on the five-member Beaufort City Council. Likely areas of focus in coming months will be hiring a new City Manager, addressing decades-old concerns about downtown parking, and launching the start of construction on the $30 million Boundary Street redevelopment.

While acknowledging the excitement and opportunity ahead, Keyserling also wanted to take a moment to look back at what Beer and Sutton helped the city accomplish.

“Donnie has a passion for civic engagement. She brought to City Council her many experiences and contacts our many non-profit organizations; she religiously attended the monthly neighborhood improvement council meetings; and she was particularly attentive to our local men and women in uniform and the base commanders.

“Donnie single-handedly launched Beaufort’s annual September 11 remembrance ceremony and I hope she will continue to do this, and to be a liaison with the various groups around town who do so much good for the community,” Keyserling said.

As for Sutton, who served eight years on council, the mayor pointed to Sutton’s attention to detail.

“Mike proved to be one of the most  methodical members I have ever seen on City Council. Not only did he examine, inside and out, every document, budget, resolution and study put before Council, but he assembled a thorough list of questions to be asked and he usually had practical suggestions for how to address difficult and complicated issues,” Keyserling said.

“Mike’s career in the Coast Guard, his service as a Deputy Sheriff, and his experience as a downtown business owner and as a building contractor gave him unique insights into the need for collaboration, and for rules and regulations that were fair and easy to understand.

“The city will miss them. I challenge them to stay engaged,” Keyserling said.

For her part, Beer deflected attention to her service on City Council and said the accomplishments were achieved by a strong City Council working closely with staff and the community.

“It takes so many people to make something come together and be successful. As for Council’s achievements I would say it would be the redevelopment of Pigeon Point Park, improvements to the Waterfront Park, the combined neighborhood meetings, the Rails to Trails conversion of the old railroad line and building the City Hall and Police Department complex.

“After serving for 24 years it is hard to remember all that has transpired over the years,” Beer said. “What I can say is that it has been an honor and privilege to have been allowed to serve the city that I love for so long.”

Beer volunteers with the American Red Cross and frequently helped coordinate services to local families displaced by disasters such as house fires. In 2013 she was named Volunteer of the Year for the Lowcountry chapter of the American Red Cross.

Sutton said he’ll miss the back-and-forth with City Council members but expects to stay involved in helping shape Beaufort’s future.

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Holiday tragedy averted by firefighters

An almost certain tragedy was averted in Grays Hill late Saturday morning, Dec. 6, as a smoldering fire in a family home was discovered and extinguished before injures or worse could happen.

Burton firefighters received a call for a possible house fire just before 11 a.m. on Conestoga Loop in Grays Hill. Firefighters arrived on scene to discover a smoldering mattress in the yard of a mobile home.

The mattress fire was started by a 3 year old child playing with a lighter. The child’s older siblings discovered the small fire and dragged the mattress outside where firefighters completed the extinguishment. The home did not have any working smoke detectors.

Damages were minor and no injuries were reported.

Burton fire officials state a definite tragedy was in the making as an all too common chain of events were taking place — a child with access to a lighter, a home with children, and no working smoke detectors. Burton firefighters provided the family with two smoke detectors before leaving the scene.

Burton Firefighter Alex Murray warns residents about the dangers of the approaching holiday.

“Homes have extra guests, things get hectic, people get easily distracted, and that’s when something gets missed or overlooked and a tragedy occurs,” stated Murray. “Take this time to check your smoke detectors, put matches and lighters out of reach of children, and mount an ABC fire extinguisher in a location in your home where all family can easily reach it.”

A fire in a mattress started by a 3 year old playing with a lighter was discovered and removed from a home in Grays Hill today before serious damage or injuries could result. Firefighters warn about the dangers of the approaching holiday.

A fire in a mattress started by a 3 year old playing with a lighter was discovered and removed from a home in Grays Hill today before serious damage or injuries could result. Firefighters warn about the dangers of the approaching holiday.

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Burton Fire Department awards firefighter and officer of the year

The Burton Fire District’s Firefighter and Fire Officer of the year were announced at the fire district’s annual awards banquet last weekend. The awardees were nominated by their peers.

Burton Fire District’s Firefighter of the Year was Johnny Wynn. Johnny has been with the fire district since 1992 and is one of the most respected and senior members of the department. A private contractor when off duty, Johnny has saved the fire district and the tax payers hundreds of thousands of dollars applying his personal skills for station repairs and upgrades. Among the many recognitions Johnny has received over the years was that of saving the life of a child who drowned in 2010.

Burton’s Fire Officer of the Year was John Ireland. John has been with the fire district since 2007 and was promoted to lieutenant in 2011. Prior to joining the district, John served as a firefighter in the Marine Corps earning the Global War on Terrorism medal. John is assigned to the rural Gray’s Hill fire station where he is often in charge of emergency scenes and making critical decisions for several minutes without assistance. Among John’s accomplishments was his assistance in delivering a 28 week premature baby while en route to MUSC. John was able to revive and stabilize the infant before handing the baby girl off to doctors.

Burton Fire District Fire Chief Harry Rountree highlighted the more than 3,300 emergency calls and 81 structure fires the district responded to this year as testament to the men and women serving in its ranks. “Firefighter Wynn and Lt. Ireland are a reflection of the caliber people in our department and the excellent services we provide. I am proud of them both.”

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News Briefs

Help identify suspects in armed robberies at Lady’s Island Tiger Express

The Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office is seeking the public’s assistance in identifying the suspects who robbed the Lady’s Island Tiger Express gas station in two separate incidents.

Just before 10 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 2, the store was robbed by a black male armed with a handgun. The suspect entered the store, brandished the weapon and demanded cash from the register. After being given an undisclosed amount of cash, the suspect fled the store, leaving both of the clerks on duty uninjured.

The following night, Wednesday, Dec. 3, just before 11 p.m., the store would be robbed again, this time by three black males. The suspects went behind the front counter where they forced a male and a female employee to the floor and took the money from the register. One suspect struck the male employee in the head while another suspect frisked the female employee, stealing her phone from her pocket.

The female employee was then forced to the office where they demanded she open the safe, but she was unable to do so. The male employee was then ordered to try, but was also unable to open it. The male employee fought back, punching one of the suspects in the face, at which time they all fled the store on foot.

As the suspects fled to the parking lot, a customer was approaching the store. The customer immediately ran back to his vehicle to call 911, at which time he was approached by one of the suspects who presented a handgun and ordered him to drop his phone. The suspect took the customer’s phone and car keys and fled the area.

The male employee sustained a minor head injury for which he refused medical treatment. Neither the female employee, nor the customer sustained any injuries.

At this time, it is unknown if the two robberies are connected. The Sheriff’s Office is asking anyone with information regarding these robberies to contact Sgt. A. Zsamar at 843-255-3408, Cpl. B. Disbrow at 843-255-3407, or Crimestoppers.

Port Royal man arrested for child porn

Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office investigators have arrested a Port Royal man for allegedly sharing electronic images depicting children engaged in sexual acts.

John Joseph Charette, Sr., 67, was arrested Tuesday, Dec. 2, following the execution of a search warrant at his Port Royal home. He has been charged with one count of Sexual Exploitation of a Minor, however, additional charges are likely pending as the investigation progresses.

On November 24, investigators received information that a computer associated with an account at 1606 Edinburgh Ave had uploaded suspected child pornography to an online file-sharing program. A search warrant was secured and was executed this morning at the home.

The file in question, along with multiple other images of a similar nature, were found on Charette’s computer at the residence. All the collected materials are being reviewed and analyzed to determine any appropriate additional charges, and may then be sent to the SC Attorney General’s Office for further examination.

The investigation continues and further details may be released as they become available.

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Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office graduates class from Citizens Police Academy

Community members from Bluffton and Beaufort who attended the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office’s Citizens Police Academy’s 10-week course recently graduated. Classes covered everything from crime scene investigation procedures, DNA processing, crime scene witness tips, gang task force activities, the history of the sheriff’s office, and open cold cases.

Pictured above are the newest graduates who attended the Citizens Police Academy’s 10-week course offered by the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office.

Pictured above are the newest graduates who attended the Citizens Police Academy’s 10-week course offered by the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office.

As the only sheriff’s department in South Carolina that offers such an academy, Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office’s goal with each class is to educate residents to the variety of responsibilities and challenges the sheriffs face protecting Beaufort County while making residents more aware of public safety issues within the community.

Water rescue, traffic challenges, tourists, SWAT, K-9, plus day to day quality of life crimes — sheriff’s deputies are well-trained professionals who welcome citizen involvement and hope that through education and participation in the Citizen’s Police Academy, residents can work more closely to support law enforcement and continue to make Beaufort County a great place to live and work.

Currently more than 2,000 Beaufort County residents have graduated from the Citizen’s Police Academy. Anyone interested in applying for an upcoming class can contact Master Sgt. Mike Jennings at 843-255-3287.

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