HCPD: Fatal shooting over card game connected to SUV fire

Marlon Coward (Source: J. Reuben Long Detention Center)
Marlon Coward (Source: J. Reuben Long Detention Center)
Brandon Alston (Source: J. Reuben Long Detention Center)
Brandon Alston (Source: J. Reuben Long Detention Center)

HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) Horry County Police have determined that the vehicle fire on Highway 31 that shut down southbound lanes to traffic Monday evening was connected to a shooting in Little River earlier in the night.

Lt. Keith Strickland with Horry County Police said that the two victims found at the vehicle fire on Highway 31 at Robert Grissom Parkway were driving themselves to the hospital to receive treatment for their wounds.

It has been determined that all shots were exchanged among the three men involved in the shooting were at a Little River residence on the 3300 Block of SC Highway 9, home to one of the victims involved in the shooting. Strickland told WMBF News that the shooting started over a game of cards.

Two were fatally injured as a result of the shooting, and another was treated at the hospital and is not expected to face charges, Strickland said. The two victims who died from their injuries are believed to be the only shooters.

When police responded to the home in Little River, children were present in the home.

Horry County Assistant Chief Coroner Tamara Willard said late Monday that one person died in the shooting in Little River, and she said one person who had been in the Bronco also died. At about 1 a.m. Tuesday she said 34-year-old Marlon Coward of Little River died at Grand Strand Regional Hospital at 8:48 p.m. Monday. Coward lived at the home on Highway 9 where the shooting happened.

Willard said 28-year-old Brandon C. Alston died at Grand Strand Regional Medical Center at 9:05 p.m. Monday. Willard believed both men died of multiple gunshot wounds, but an autopsy on Tuesday could confirm that preliminary determination.

A fire engulfed the Ford Bronco along Highway 31 southbound about a mile north of the International Drive/Robert Grissom Parkway overpass around 8:15 p.m. Monday that Alston and a third victim were traveling in.

Lt. Myron Creel with Horry County Police said the two people who were traveling in the Bronco had gunshot wounds, but got out of the SUV before flames engulfed it.

At least one Horry County Police crime scene investigator inspected the Bronco after the fire was completely out. Officials say a mechanical error sparked the blaze.

The SUV, fire trucks, ambulances and Horry County Police cars blocked all lanes of the highway until about 9:15 p.m. when officers opened one lane. The highway reopened completely after the SUV was towed away after 10:15 p.m.

"The fire was so engulfed in flames," Grayson Edge, a witness, said. "The tires were starting to blow out, but you could smell the electrical burning in the car."

Grayson says he was among some of the first people to spot the fire along SC-31 and stopped to help. He says he saw gas dripping from the car, as flames became more visible.

"I was stunned," he said. "You never know - you always try to pull over to do a good deed and try to help somebody out."

Witness accounts and evidence have concluded that only three people were involved in the shooting in Little River last night.

"From witness testimony and as well as the physical evidence that was processed from the crime scene from the Forensics Unit, all of that indicates the person who survived their gunshot wounds was in fact the victim -- and not the shooter," Strickland said Tuesday.

The names of any others involved have not been released, as Horry County Police continue to investigate.

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