A pair of Greenville County sheriff’s deputies noticed a disturbance at Lavish Lounge just before 2am, and saw a large crowd running out of the building, Sheriff Hobart Lewis said at a press conference.
There was “active gunfire from inside the building”, Lieutenant Jimmy Bolt said in an initial statement, and Mr Lewis said all the shots were fired inside.
Both Mr Lewis and Mr Bolt initially said 12 people had been wounded — with at least four in critical condition, Mr Lewis said — but Mr Bolt later told WYFF-TV that the casualty figure had been revised.
No one was immediately taken into custody.
The sheriff’s office had “some suspect information”, Mr Lewis said at the press conference, but was not sure if there were multiple shooters.
“We don’t really have a person of interest that we can name,” Mr Lewis said, later adding that authorities were not sure what led to the gunfire.
The names and precise conditions of the victims were not immediately released.
The sheriff said a “very large crowd” was at the nightclub for some type of concert.
A post on Lavish Lounge’s Facebook page advertised a 4 July performance by trap rapper Foogiano.
An Instagram direct message was not immediately returned, but a bookings representative said via text message Foogiano was fine and his team was safe.
The nightclub is about 8km southwest of downtown Greenville, in South Carolina’s Upstate region.
Coronavirus cases in South Carolina have risen swiftly and the state’s rate of positive tests is three times the recommended level.
In late June, Greenville — which has experienced some of the state’s highest Covid-19 rates — became the first city to mandate face coverings in South Carolina, where Governor Henry McMaster has refused to implement a statewide mask requirement.
Mr McMaster reminded South Carolinians last week that he had not lifted restrictions on large crowds, and those operating nightclubs illegally or holding concerts against his orders do not have to be caught in the act to face criminal charges, but instead could be charged weeks later if Covid-19 cases are traced back.
A phone call and an Instagram direct message to Lavish Lounge were not immediately returned, but the club posted on Facebook just before 6 am local time that events “have been postponed until further notice”.
Mr Lewis said he did not know whether the club had sought an exemption to the governor’s order or secured a permit for Saturday night’s event, but said it was clear that the club’s patrons were not two metres apart.
“It’s certainly not the best situation to stop the spread of this virus,” the sheriff said.