The question of whether those were celebratory fireworks or gunshots Charleston residents heard on New Year’s Eve may never be answered definitively since city police did cite three people for allegedly greeting 2022 with a public display of gunfire.
Police Chief Jerry Williams II said Marquavais Nelson, 33, of 105 N. Carver St., Itta Bena; Jermell Johnson, 28, of 105 Ricks Dr., Itta Bena; and Dannielle Gipson, 29, of 1174 Meeks Circle, Charleston, were charged with discharging a firearm within the city limits, in violation of a city ordinance.
All three have a Jan. 10 date in Charleston Municipal Court, where they face a fine of up to $500 and/or up to 90 days in jail if found guilty of the misdemeanor.
Williams said police are trying to identify several others who allegedly fired weapons Friday night.
The chief said Nelson and Johnson were arrested without incident in the nightclub district of West Main Street, where Nelson was allegedly firing an AR-15 .223-caliber rifle into the air and Johnson was shooting a 9 mm pistol as part of a large and loud midnight bash.
Gipson was charged with blasting 9 mm pistol rounds into the air during a wild celebration that took place on Court Square near the Charleston Post Office.
“There were probably 50-100 rounds on the ground there,” said Williams, who noted that other people will face charges in connection with that shooting frenzy if if they can be identified by investigators.
Williams said four police officers, including himself, were posted on West Main, where a crowd had gathered for a fireworks show sponsored by one of the clubs.
The chief noted that police did not have enough officers to patrol the entire city on New Year’s Eve, so they chose to focus their efforts on areas where large numbers of people would be congregating.
“The club district had the largest crowd in town,” said Williams. “In the past, there have always been numerous people shooting in the club district” on New Year’s Eve.
He noted that while some people may view discharging a weapon into the air as a traditional means of celebrating a new year, the practice is dangerous and is known for inadvertently causing serious injuries and even deaths.
While there have been no known incidents within the city, there have been cases in rural Tallahatchie County and elsewhere of people being killed by falling projectiles from guns that were fired into the air.
Williams announced publicly prior to New Year’s Eve that there would be “zero tolerance” for the exercise.