A South Carolina mother fruitlessly tried to shield her 20-month-old toddler from a barrage of bullets in a drive-by shooting that killed the baby and two adults and injured at least five others, relatives said Tuesday.
Relatives said the victims were playing cards Monday night in the front yard of the small beige bungalow in the small town of Walterboro when a car pulled up and opened fire.
"Everybody was sitting outside. Instead of shooting at one guy, they shot at everybody," said Dominique Adams, 21, a cousin who lives nearby. "The mother, she tried to shield the baby, but the bullet went through the baby's head and through the mother's arm."
Colleton County Coroner Richard Harvey said Charles Kittrell, 45, died at the scene. The baby, Shaniyah Burden, and Christopher Powell, 21, died at hospitals.
Adams identified the mother as Aleshia Kittrell, 24, saying she had been taken to Colleton Medical Center, but the hospital did not confirm she was a patient.
The motive for the shootings was unknown, but some relatives and neighbors suspected it was gang-related. No arrests have been reported.
Officers were looking for a black car with one headlight, Police Capt. Ken Dasen said. He referred other questions to the State Law Enforcement Division. A SLED spokeswoman said she couldn't immediately provide details.
Bessie Kittrell, 69, said she lost her son, Charles, a grandson, Christopher, and a great-granddaughter in the shooting. She said she almost lost a second great-grandchild: Powell had put his 8-month-old son inside the house a short time before the shooting.
"It's a good thing he put his baby in the house earlier or they would have killed that one, too," Bessie Kittrell said.
A friend of the family, Pamela Overton, 49, said the shooting was gang-related and that Powell had been shot at before.
"These people here are low-key people, they are common people, they don't bother anybody. The lady in this house raised me. She was like a mother to me," Overton said of Powell's mother.
"The vendetta is probably something stupid, over a girl or something, but this is the second time this young man has been targeted." Overton said. "He was like my littler brother, I loved him. I just saw him the other day. They are very good people, just common folk, hardworking people."
She said the younger man did not live at the house.
Ella Adams, who said she was Powell's aunt, said she did not believe her nephew was being targeted.
"It was a gang, but the people they shot were not in the gang," Adams said. "You're not safe in your own yard. That's what they are saying."
Adams said people often stopped by Kittrell's house to ask to play cards. "Perhaps one of the gang members was in there," she said.
Ginni Keeling, 22, who identified herself as a cousin of the family who lived nearby, said they often played cards and watched television in the front yard of the house.
"I've been over here since I was 13 years old. I ain't never seen anything like this," she said.
Keeling said she'd left the scene about 15 minutes before the shooting with her two young children and she got a call from another relative at the scene of the shooting.
Associated Press Writer Susanne M. Schafer in Columbia contributed to this report.