LAURINBURG — Lawanda Bethea does not know how or why her 18-year-old son was shot Saturday in an incident with police.
But she is certain that no mother should have to go through what she has.
Bethea’s son, Desmond Bethea, was shot early Saturday morning by a police officer near the intersection of Lee’s Mill and Produce Market roads. She said he was struck 17 times by gunfire.
He is listed in critical condition at a hospital in Myrtle Beach, S.C.
“He has a three-year-old son … what do I tell him?” Lawanda Bethea said. “He has heard us talking, but he doesn’t really understand. I don’t know that I understand.”
Desmond Bethea’s family said they have heard bits and pieces from the community about what happened, but are waiting for authorities to give them “the whole story.”
Peggy Smith, the teenager’s aunt, said she had heard that Desmond had been dropped off at the Food Mart near the intersection right before the shooting.
“The SBI said that there had been two prior shootings in that area before Desmond got there,” she said. “I don’t know why he was dropped off … but some kind of way, he and the police came into contact and he ended up getting shot.”
Lawanda Bethea shakes her head and sighs as Peggy Smith speaks. She describes her son as a good kid who rarely got into any real trouble. She said he was probably being “nosy” when he encountered police at the scene of previous shootings.
“You hear all kinds of things,” Lawanda Bethea said. “They have said that he was resisting arrest and tried to run when he was shot. Someone else said that he had a gun and turned to fire on police, but as far as I know they never found it.
“But even if he did have a gun that does not justify shooting him that many times. And it sounds like more than one officer.”
Lawanda Bethea said her son’s injures include being shot once in the left arm, twice in the right arm, twice in the left foot, several times in the stomach and chest and in the palm of his hand. there is also a bullet lodged in his ear. Doctors had to remove his spleen , a portion of his lung and half of his liver, his mother said.
“He is better, but still has a long way to go,” she said.
Laurinburg Police Chief Darwin “Duke” Williams has declined to discuss the case that he said is still be investigated by the SBI because an officer was involved.
He did say that the officer has been placed on administrative leave.
SBI spokesperson Patty McQuillan told The Laurinburg Exchange that the shooting happened Saturday around 3 a.m.
McQuillan didn’t provide any information related to the type of call to which the officer was responding, nor did she say what caused the officer to fire the gun.
McQuillan also did not say if Desmond Bethea was armed at the time of the shooting.
She said when the SBI investigation is complete, the findings will be turned over to the Scotland County District Attorney’s Office.
Wanda Bethea said she is thinking about holding a vigil on Saturday in the area where the shooting happened, but the family hasn’t made a final decision.
“My hope is that this is the first incident of this kind and the last,” she said. “You see this kind of thing happening in other places, but you do not expect to experience it. I want our community use what happened as a way of preventing it from happening again. We want there to be a purpose in the pain we have experienced.”
Reporter Beth Lawrence assisted with this story