BEAUFORT, S.C. (April 18, 2023) – An Okatie man who opened fire at a vehicle driven by his former girlfriend and two passengers in a Hilton Head Island parking lot has been convicted of three attempted-murder charges.
Ray Altacho, 27, shot one of his victims twice and grazed the clothing of a second victim in the attack Jan. 18, 2021, in a south-island area known for its active nightlife and often referred to as the “Barmuda Triangle.”
Altacho’s motion for immunity from prosecution under South Carolina’s Protection of Persons and Property Act – commonly referred to as the “stand your ground law” – was denied Tuesday. He pleaded guilty later in the day to the attempted-murder charges, as well as charges of possession of a weapon during commission of a violent crime and possession of a handgun by a person convicted of a crime of violence.
“Mr. Altatcho has a history of violent behavior and fired several shots at his victims without any provocation whatsoever,” said Mary Jordan Lempesis of the 14th Circuit Solicitor’s Office, who prosecuted the case. “Although the bullets did not hit the defendant’s former girlfriend, this was clearly an act of intimate-partner violence, which the Solicitor’s Office works hard to prevent and to punish.”
Circuit Court Judge Robert Bonds sentenced Altacho to 13 years in prison, followed by three years of probation. Bonds also issued permanent restraining orders at the request of two victims that prevent Altacho from having any contact with them.
Altacho’s former girlfriend and two male companions had just exited the Boardroom restaurant shortly after 8 p.m. and entered the woman’s car. She drove to the opposite end of the parking lot to take one of the men to his vehicle. As she parked her 2020 Nissan Sentra next to her companion’s car, Altacho wheeled into an adjacent space, emerged from his vehicle and fired at least five shots into the Sentra.
Two shots struck the man in the front passenger seat as he covered the woman.
The woman sped off to escape the gunfire but crashed her vehicle a short distance away, on New Orleans Road. One of the victims called 9-1-1 immediately after the crash.
All three victims identified Altacho as the shooter. He could not be immediately located but was arrested three weeks later by the U.S. Marshal’s Service, following a traffic stop in Florence.
Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office investigators found Altacho’s cellphone on the ground in the parking lot where the shooting occurred. Surveillance footage shows Altacho’s vehicle following his ex-girlfriend’s Sentra across the lot just before the shooting.
No shell casings and no weapon were recovered, but investigators retrieved four bullets from the victims’ vehicle. S.C. State Law Enforcement Division analysts determined each was fired from the same gun. A fifth bullet remains lodged in the arm of the front-seat passenger.
Altacho’s criminal history includes convictions for burglary, larceny, failure to stop for a blue light and domestic violence.
“Violence has no place in an intimate-partner relationship,” 14th Circuit Solicitor Duffie Stone said, “and as this case demonstrates, when it erupts, it is not merely a private matter. It poses a potentially lethal threat to victimized partners, their friends and family, bystanders and often to law enforcement officers called in to calm these situations.
“That is why my office has worked so hard to find solutions and why we will continue to do so.”
Among the 14th Circuit Solicitor’s Office efforts to stem intimate-partner violence and similar offenses:
- Launched a Special Victims Unit in 2017 to prosecute domestic violence, sexual assault, child abuse and other offenses against vulnerable people.
- Opened the 14th Circuit Victims Services Center in its Okatie headquarters in 2019, along with several community partners. The center provides a centralized location for victims of these crimes to arrange and receive services.
- Partnered with Hopeful Horizons to provide danger-assessment training for law-enforcement officers who frequently respond to domestic violence calls. The training was conducted by the renowned Dr. Jacquelyn C. Campbell of Johns Hopkins University.
- Is collaborating with the University of South Carolina Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice on a comprehensive, grant-funded study of domestic violence cases and the legal and extralegal factors associated with them.
If you or a loved one is facing domestic violence or other abuse at the hands of a partner or family member, call the 14th Circuit Victims Services Center’s 24-hour hotline at 843-790-6220. You can also email the center at [email protected] or visit the center’s website at https://scsolicitor14.org/victim-services-center/.