The October shooting in Columbia’s Vista worries those who work and play in the entertainment district. Some wonder if stricter gun control measures could make Columbia a safer place to stay.
By Ciano Chandler
November 14 2017
In mid-September, a drive-by shooting took place in one of Columbia’s most popular nightlife districts. A spray of bullets wounded eight people and raised questions about the safety of South Carolina’s capital city.
The 2 a.m. incident at the Empire Supper Club, on the corner of Lady and Park Streets, injured four women and four men. Four Newberry County men were arrested in connection with the shooting. Columbia investigators say the confrontation was engendered by a music industry feud between two Newberry County groups.
Kristie Logan, a state lawmaker’s niece, and Kentucky fan Denise Massey were among the victims who had no connection to the dispute and did not know the men involved.
“The only thing that I can remember is walking out of the club and then I turned around and walked with my friend and went to the other direction,” Logan told The State, Columbia’s newspaper. “As soon as we started walking across the street, we heard noises and I felt something going down my leg.”
Columbia Police Department reported that incidents involving a gun increased 7 percent for the month of September 2017 over September 2016.
Troy Robinson, general manager of Caroline Ale House at 708 Lady St., said he witnessed the incident outside of his establishment and feels an intense rage due to the many crimes that have happened near his place of business.
“I witnessed with my own eyes, the rival gangs in the street and innocent bystanders that got shot,” Robinson said. “When it comes to crime, I don’t think that it’s often time what’s reported, it’s kind of what’s maybe mainstream.”
He believes crime in Columbia has been bad for quite some time now and it goes beyond The Vista.
According to U.S. News & World Report, statistics for crime rates in Columbia, in comparison to the rest of South Carolina cities, show Columbia with the highest rate for gun violence.
“Although it’s bad I think that it’s unfortunate events like that, that happens all the time. I’m a member of the Vistal Guild, an organization created to bring great energy, so that our city can continue to grow in the direction of living and businesses,” Robinson said. “Unfortunate events like that have been reported monthly.”
“The Vista is larger than just Lady St, so it goes bigger than that,” he said. “I think there’s a deeper issue than what the media shows.”
South Region Commander Capt. Chris Roberts said, there has been a 160 percent rise in aggravated assaults in Columbia from 2016 to 2017.
Victims of shootings are most likely to know the suspect, although the Vista shooting involved some passersby who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Sara Gore, a student at University of South Carolina who works in the Vista, said her parents live in a neighborhood nearby where the shooting took place in The Vista.
“I think it’s so crazy that my dad had to get three security cameras installed, because of the increase in Columbia’s crime rate,” she said.
Appalled by the shooting Gore said, “eight people were shot in the Vista. Are you freaking kidding me? Yeah, I’m definitely not working in The Vista anymore.”
Currently She is looking for another job that has a much better environment to maintain her safety.
James Boulding, a USC student who happened to be downtown at the time of the shooting, said he believed stricter gun policies could prevent future incidents. “Gun laws do work, they do reduce crime, suicides, and accidental gun deaths. Where do criminals get guns? Off legal owners,” said Boulding.
Boulding feels very passionate about gun restrictions, a stance not shared by the majority of South Carolinians.
“It’s about being pro for less restrictions, it’s ignorant and with current information, it’s clear gun laws do work,” Boulding said. “Canada and China are two examples that I encourage you to look up statistics for gun restrictions.”
Four men are facing felony charges in connection with the shooting. They include Maleik Houseal, Keveas Gallman, John Bates Jr. and Jarvis Tucker.