Sheriff challenger blames incumbent for deadly club shooting

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GREENVILLE, S.C. (AP) — A Democrat running for sheriff in upstate South Carolina says the Republican incumbent’s failure to enforce social distancing rules is to blame for a nightclub shooting that killed two and wounded at least eight others.

Paul Guy made the remarks about Greenville County Sheriff Hobart Lewis at a Friday news conference, saying he failed to enforce rules set down by Gov. Henry McMaster to prevent the spread of COVID-19. About 200 people gathered at the Lavish Lounge near Greenville on July 4 for a performance by trap rapper Foogiano, although McMaster ordered nightclubs closed on March 31.

“Because Hobart was not in compliance, local business owners took advantage of his noncompliance by opening businesses that should have been closed,” WYFF-TV reports Guy saying. “Hobart’s noncompliance produced an environment that allowed the killing at Lavish Lounge nightclub to take place.”

Lewis replied by accusing Guy of blaming innocent bystanders for the shooting.

“It would be impossible to monitor and maintain the social distancing guidelines across the entire county and especially during an evening like July 4th when we historically face an extremely high call volume,” Lewis said in a statement.

The dispute spun out of earlier comments by Lewis made in an interview for an online video program that George Floyd and Rayshard Brooks would be alive “if both men had complied” with police. Floyd died after a police officer in Minneapolis kneeled on his neck, while Brooks was shot dead after he wrestled a stun gun away from an Atlanta police officer and ran away across a parking lot. The video of Floyd’s death sparked nationwide protests, with Brooks’ death adding fuel to the fire.

Guy is African American, as were Brooks and Floyd. He said he was disturbed by the remarks by Lewis, who is white.

“Where are the aggravated elements that produce Hobart Lewis’s assessment that George Floyd was not in compliance? All the evidence presented to the grand jury was saying there’s no resistance to arrest on the part of George Floyd,” Guy said Friday.

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