Recent violence at Burton nightclub worries neighbors

BURTON -- Less than 20 yards from the winding gravel road that leads to the Studio Seven nightclub sits Benny Singleton's one-bedroom home.

Singleton, 48, a sexton at the Parish Church of St. Helena, was asleep March 8 when shots rang out in the club parking lot. A stray bullet pierced his bedroom wall and lodged in an interior wall.

The only sound Singleton heard, he said, was that of the bullet tearing through drywall.

"All I heard was a 'poof,' " he said. "It was very quick. But as soon as I heard it, I hit the deck and crawled into the bathroom. I was in the bathroom when I realized I didn't have my cell phone, so I crawled back into my bedroom, grabbed the phone and called 911. It was very freaky. If it had been an inch or two lower, it could have hit me while I'm lying in bed."

Last week's shooting was the second time in less than a year bullets coming from the club's vicinity have hit Singleton's home.

In July, bullets from another shooting struck the outside of Singleton's home. A rectangular chunk of wood siding that surrounded the bullet's entry hole still is missing where Beaufort County Sheriff's deputies removed the slug for evidence.

Singleton has lived on Vanita Drive in Burton for more than 20 years and said he used to visit the club.

"It was a good time back then," he said. "I'd just walk over there, stay for a little while and walk back home. I haven't been over there in a few years now. It's not the same. Even back then if there was an argument or a fight, they'd have it out and buy each other a beer. Not now. Now they'll go to the car and get a gun, or they have a gun on them."

Singleton said the club owner -- Eric Douglas, according to Beaufort County records -- needs to be held accountable for the increasing gun violence at Studio Seven.

"I understand that the club owner is just a businessman trying to make a living, but it's his responsibility to make sure these kinds of things don't happen," Singleton said. "If he can't get it under control, then the club needs to be closed. It's too dangerous."

Beaufort County Councilor Herbert Glaze agrees.

Glaze, a Democrat from Burton, supports holding property owners responsible for guns discharged on their property.

"All you have to do is post signs on your property that says all vehicle and persons are subject to search and hire security to search those vehicles and check for weapons," Glaze said. "If someone discharges a gun on your property, you need to be held accountable for that and given the maximum penalty allowed."

Several attempts to reach Douglas for comment were unsuccessful. It is not clear when the club first opened or how long Douglas has owned the club. County records show the club does have a valid business license that expires May 31.

No arrests have been made in connection with either shooting. The Beaufort County Sheriff's Office said those at the club, including a security guard whose Cadillac was shot in the rear fender, refused to cooperate with law enforcement.

The nightclub has been an incubator for a number of violent crimes in recent years, including the July 5 shooting of Kevin Holmes that authorities believe sparked three subsequent shootings in the area of Beeburst Lane and Castle Rock Road.

The Beaufort County Sheriff's Office has received nearly 300 calls to the club since January 2006 for incidents ranging from fights to gunshots to arson, according to statistics.

Sheriff P.J. Tanner declined comment about the club, citing on-going investigations.