«Article published Jul 9, 2005Teens face lynching charges in Gaffney
LYNNE POWELL,CherokeeCountyBureauGAFFNEY — A black 16-year-old who was assaulted by five white teenagers in an apparently racially motivated attack has already forgiven his assailants, his grandmother says.But BrendaClyburn says he still fears for his safety.Rising Gaffney High SchooljuniorIsaiahClyburn continues to recover from bruises, cuts and possible internal injuries after the five teenagers he had never seen before allegedly beat him Thursday evening.Isaiah was walking along Ellis Ferry Road about 6 p.m. after spending time with friends, enjoying his afternoon off from his part-time job at a local restaurant. As three trucks filled with the five boys passed, one of the boys yelled a racial slur before the trucks turned back down the road toward him.Christopher Scott Cates, 17, of 1120Campton Road in Inman, climbed out of one truck and began fighting with Isaiah in the road, Sheriff BillBlanton said.The four other teenagers — 18-year-old Justin Ashley Phillips of 207 Crooked Tree Drive in Inman, 17-year-old Kenneth Miller of 144 Colony Pike Road in Inman, Jerry Christopher Toney of 1005 Melody Lane in Spartanburg and 16-year-old Luke Grice of Inman — got out of the trucks and kicked and hit Isaiah, Blanton said.
Detective David Oglesby charged all five with second-degree lynching and also charged Miller with reckless driving. Grice has been charged as an adult. Lynching carries a maximum of 20 years in prison.
“I don’t know how else to say it, but an angel appeared and saved Isaiah,” Brenda Clyburn said.
The man Isaiah’s grandmother calls an angel hasn’t been identified by police or prosecutors, but Blanton said a man who was driving along Ellis Ferry saw what was happening, pulled Isaiah into his car and called 911.
The suspects got back into their trucks, and Miller wrecked the truck he was driving in an effort to leave before police arrived, Blanton said.
Brenda Clyburn said she and her son, Steven, are thankful Isaiah received minor injuries.
Isaiah was released from Upstate Carolina Medical Center and is recuperating at home. He wasn’t present Friday afternoon for the bail hearing for each of his alleged attackers.
The Clyburn family doesn’t bear any ill will toward the teenagers, and Isaiah, who became a Christian three months ago, has asked for prayers.
“I don’t really understand what the boys were doing,” Brenda Clyburn said. “I don’t know if they really knew what they were doing, if they’re ashamed or what, but (the severity of the crime) seemed to hit them when police put handcuffs on them.
“This could have been a terrible tragedy, but Isaiah had angels looking after him.”
Assistant Solicitor Abel Gray requested high bail for each of the suspects, saying they pose a threat to the community and have no ties to Cherokee County.
Cates has a pending charge of malicious injury to personal property in Spartanburg County. None of the other suspects have prior criminal records.
Gray told Judge Frank Crocker that Isaiah’s father fears for his son’s safety and described the attack as “vicious and heinous.” Gray also pointed to the “randomness” and “severity” of the assault.
Crocker set bail for each of the suspects at $50,000, ordered them to be home by 9 p.m. each night, and instructed them not to have any contact with the Clyburn family.
The suspects, wearing dirt-stained clothes from the day before, didn’t speak at their hearing.
Their families, some of them tearful during the hearing, would not comment.