PINEVILLE — A rural community is grappling for answers after a young man visiting his longtime girlfriend was found Thursday shot to death in his car.

Bradley Blake, 21, of St. Stephen, was killed shortly after saying good night to Sha Sha Cleveland, a senior at Timberland High School. He was found in the morning in his car outside her house on Willowood Road, the lights still on and the engine running. Witnesses said he was shot twice in the face, although investigators have confirmed only that he was shot.

A man who lives a couple of miles from the neighborhood was arrested Thursday night and charged with murder. Devonte Gaillard, 20, of Echo Lane in Pineville, is being held in the Berkeley County jail. Gaillard was sentenced to two years probation for second-degree burglary in October, according to Berkeley County court records.

The investigation was continuing. A few dozen residents gathered near the crime scene in the afternoon to express their shock about Blake’s death.

“I found him to be a gentleman,” said Elton Cleveland, Sha Sha’s father. “I know his family. He comes from a good background. They’re just good people.”

His mother, Sylvia Blake, holds a doctorate and is administrative assistant to the dean at Trident Technical College, according to Scott’s Mortuary of Moncks Corner, which is handling funeral arrangements. His father, Louis Blake Jr., works for Albany International in St. Stephen.

“He was going to be my future son-in-law,” Cleveland said. “I want whoever did this to be apprehended. At 21 years old, I don’t think anybody deserves this. I mean two days after Christmas, we’re coming into a new year, and we just celebrated the birth of Christ, and for this to happen in this community, it’s really heartbreaking.”

Blake and Sha Sha had been dating for five years. She said he worked several days a week at the Coca-Cola plant in North Charleston and drove over to her house about every night.

“He was very easygoing,” she said. “He was the kindest person. He was a real sweetheart. It was our fifth Christmas together.”

A couple of residents said they heard dogs barking and maybe some gunshots early Thursday but didn’t think anything of it at the time, since hunters are common in the area. Cleveland’s aunt got up early and saw Blake’s car parked in its usual spot with the engine running and the lights on.

When the car was still there later, another family member looked closer and saw blood inside.

“This is devastating to our community,” Cleveland said. “Nothing like this has ever happened.”

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