Sumter County law enforcement is very familiar with the man they say they had a gunfight with Sunday morning.
Dontrell Montese Carter, the 25-year-old who law enforcement now says was armed with an assault rifle loaded with armor-piercing rounds during the shootout, remains at large after a string of alleged crimes Sunday morning – including a domestic violence assault, a shootout at a residence, a high-speed chase and gun battle with officers. (The initial stories detailing Sunday’s events can be found here and here.)
“As soon as he wrecked, Carter exited the vehicle firing at the officers with an assault rifle. He put our officers as well as many residents of Sumter County in great danger by firing wildly as he did,” Sumter County Sheriff Anthony Dennis said.
Fortunately no one was injured in the gun battle, and no one was seriously injured in any of incidents throughout the Dalzell area in northern Sumter County leading up to the altercation with law enforcement.
For Sunday’s alleged actions, Dennis said Carter now faces several charges of attempted murder, possession of a weapon during a violent crime, and firing shots into a dwelling, among other charges. Dennis added other charges could be filed as the investigation continues.
“Even though he has escaped apprehension so far, we will use every available resource available to us or other agencies to locate him,” Dennis said. “He has proven himself to be a danger to the community so we are working diligently to get him and keep him off of the streets.”
However, this won’t be the first time that local law enforcement is responding to an alleged outburst of violence by Carter, who has a history of violent crime and weapons charges stemming back to when he was a teenager.
But despite the litany of charges accumulated by Carter since his first arrest in 2008 when he was 17 years old – which includes attempted murder – Carter has yet to be tried in court for the most violent charges against him.
That’s not to say Carter hasn’t spent time in jail. According to public records, on multiple occasions Carter has been convicted of lesser offenses – for example: multiple DUI charges – and has spent some of the time he was sentenced to behind bars. According to public records, one other significant set of charges Carter faced, 2010 accusations of first-degree burglary and kidnapping, were dismissed after he was able to produce an alibi accepted by prosecutors.
Still, outstanding charges against Carter include a 2008 charge of armed robbery with a deadly weapon, 2010 charges of unlawful possession of a firearm and possession of a stolen firearm, 2013 charges of attempted murder and discharging a firearm into an occupied vehicle, and 2014 charges of grand larceny.
In total, according to public records, Carter has been either arrested or detained by law enforcement at least 14 times over the past eight years, and despite the numerous run-ins with law enforcement, Carter has neither had his day in court nor had his bond revoked for the most serious previous accusations he faces.
Even more unfortunate, in Sumter County, and the Third Circuit – which includes Sumter, Clarendon, Lee and Williamsburg – long periods of waiting for prosecution are commonplace.
The South Carolina Supreme Court has set a benchmark for 80 percent of all general session charges to be finalized within a year of initially appearing on the court docket. According to the statistics provided by the South Carolina Judicial Department, the Third Circuit currently sits at a 47 percent clearance rate, the worst in the state. In simple terms, more than half of all the general session charges still awaiting resolution are more than a year old.
When broken down to the county level, Sumter County on its own performs even worse. Of the 3,575 pending cases on the general sessions docket in Sumter County, 2,000 cases – or 56 percent – have been on the docket for at least a year. Of these, 1,479 cases – or 41 percent – have been waiting at least 545 days. Statewide, the average number of cases waiting this long sands at only 17 percent. At least five of Carter’s outstanding charges fall into this category.
Dennis said officers fortunately followed protocol Sunday, otherwise the result the result could have been much worse. “This could have ended badly because three law enforcement officers could have lost their lives as well as nearby residents,” Dennis said.
As of Monday afternoon, Carter remained at large, and continues to be considered armed and dangerous. He is described as a medium-skinned black male with dreadlocks standing 5 feet, 10 inches tall and weighing about 170 pounds. Law enforcement strongly asks the public not to approach the suspect if he is spotted, but rather to immediately call either 911, the Sumter County Sheriff’s Office at (803) 436-2700, or Crime Stoppers at (803) 436-2718.
Authorities now say they also believe Carter could be receiving assistance avoiding law enforcement, and warn that anyone aiding the suspect could face criminal charges for harboring a fugitive.