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Moments before a crowd marched at a vigil Thursday to honor an 8-year-old boy killed in the crossfire of a gun battle, the Beaufort County Sheriff's Office announced two men already in custody have been charged with the child's murder.
Holding a candle for Khalil Singleton, Sheriff P.J. Tanner announced deputies had served warrants against 37-year-old Tyrone Robinson and 19-year-old Aaron Scott Young Jr. at the Beaufort County Detention Center just before the 7 p.m. March to Stop Violence began.
In addition, Young Jr. and his father Aaron Scott Young Sr., who is also in custody, have been charged with conspiring to murder Tyrone Robinson in the Saturday gun fight on Allen Road. Investigators believe the gun battle was part of an ongoing drug-related feud.
Friends, family and well-wishers clapped and cheered at the news as they gathered in the field behind St. James Baptist Church on Beach City Road.
"We understand the frustration in the community; the law enforcement community is frustrated as well," Tanner told the group. "We've got guys on the street that don't need to be on the streets and we've got guys on the street that are having access to guns easier than they ever have in years past."
"Amen!" voices shouted back.
"We're going to work not only with the community; we're going to work with the General Assembly and the judicial system as a whole to make this community and every community in Beaufort County a safer community," Tanner said.
'HE WAS ONE OF US'
Melanie Jones organized the march up Beach City Road so islanders and others could stand up to the kind of "senseless violence" that killed Khalil. The child was playing outside his grandmother's home when he was struck by a bullet as the Youngs and Robinson exchanged gunfire, the Sheriff's Office has said.
More than 100 people turned out in support.
Laverne Madison was among them.
"It's been a problem and it's just getting worse," Madison said of the violence. "Now you have an innocent child, 8 years old, just starting his life and having it ended for no reason."
Marchers carried signs calling for an end to gun violence and in remembrance of Khalil. Members of the Boys & Girls Club of Lowcountry carried one with his picture that said "He was one of us."
Brothers and Hilton Head Island Elementary students Jaiden and Torin Hrobar made a sign with an acrostic of Khalil's name: Kind, Happy, Awesome, Loving, Innocent, Liked.
Their mother Traci Hrobar said her sons knew Khalil through the Hilton Head Baseball Association where Khalil's father, Kareem Singleton, is an umpire.
A LONG ROAD
Reached at her Allen Road home, Khalil's great-aunt Margarite Washington said the family was happy to hear murder charges had been brought against Young Jr. and Robinson.
Washington said she had been worried the men, particularly Robinson, would post bond.
"I'm glad they got Tyrone, I'm glad they got him," she said. "Now I can live at peace in my home."
Young Jr. was initially charged with discharging a firearm into a vehicle for shooting at Robinson's car.
Robinson was initially charged with presenting a handgun in an earlier struggle with Young Jr.
A fourth man arrested Saturday, 35-year-old Jontu Singleton, has been cleared in Khalil's death. He still faces unrelated burglary charges.
Tanner said forensic evidence collected during what he called a "day and night" investigation led to the murder charges.
Khalil's mother Katrina Singleton said those charges gave her some sense of relief.
Her struggle, however, is far from over.
"There is still a long road to go through the trial," she said.
- Deputies continue searching for evidence in Hilton Head child's fatal shooting, Sept. 5, 2012
- 3 of 4 men arrested in Hilton Head boy's shooting are felons, Sept. 4, 2012
- VIDEO: Hilton Head Elementary memorializes slain third-grader, Sept. 4, 2012
- Students at Hilton Head Elementary return to school following shooting death of classmate, Sept. 3, 2012
- Four in custody following shooting death of Hilton Head 8-year-old, Sept. 2, 2012
- Eight-year-old boy shot to death in Hilton Head Island crossfire, Sept. 1, 2012