6 people shot dead in US domestic dispute
GREENWOOD, South Carolina (AP) — Bryan Sweatt was in the middle of a custody fight with his girlfriend over their 7-month-old daughter and facing a burglary charge that could put him in jail for years.
His girlfriend’s father had warned him to stay away from his house and the dirt track Sweatt had built in the backyard for his all-terrain vehicles.
Then on Tuesday afternoon, Sweatt broke into the parents’ house and waited for them and the girlfriend to come home, police said. When they did, Sweatt fatally shot his girlfriend, her parents and two children living there, before turning the gun on himself, Sheriff Tony Davis said.
Davis didn’t specify a motive for the shootings, but said it appears they stemmed from a “domestic violence situation.”
He said Sweatt felt that Chandra Fields wasn’t allowing him to see their infant child often enough. The girl was not among the dead.
He said that Sweatt had called police while he was in the Fields’ house, stating that he was on the edge and contemplating suicide, before hanging up.
It’s unclear how many — if any — victims had been shot before he made the call at 5:54 p.m. Tuesday. A police report said a dispatcher heard a woman in the background say: “Do not point that at me” before the call was disconnected.
Sweatt allowed four children to escape — his 7-month-old daughter, the infant’s cousin and two neighborhood children who came to the door after school to play with the Fields’ grandchildren.
No one knows why Sweatt let them live and shot the others, Davis said.
While they’re still searching for clues, one thing is clear: Sweatt’s life was spinning out of control.
Sweatt has a lengthy arrest record that dates back nearly a decade, according to state police records. Most of his charges were related to property crimes, such as burglary or forgery, although he was arrested once on aggravated assault charges.
Sheriff Davis said Fields also believed that Sweatt had stolen property from him and told him “not to come back.”
But on Tuesday, Sweatt returned.
After breaking in, he waited for the victims to come to the house.
Officers went to the home after receiving the emergency call from Sweatt. Davis said while police were on their way, a neighbor called saying four children from that address had arrived at her house and told her a shot had been fired. He said the children remained at her house.
After about an hour and “several unsuccessful attempts” by officers to make contact with anyone in the home, the SWAT team entered and discovered the bodies, authorities said.
Associated Press writers Meg Kinnard and Jeffrey Collins in Columbia and Lisa J. Adams in Atlanta contributed to this report.