COLUMBIA, SC — Online
An attempted murder and attempted armed robbery in one of Columbias most popular entertainment districts has left one victim in stable condition and a downtown community stunned.
Were saddened and shocked, quite frankly, by this, said Congaree Vista Guild executive director Sarah Luadzers.
Close to 1 a.m. Saturday, a couple was held up by two men in the heart of the Vista as the man and woman had just gotten inside their parked car, said Columbia Police Chief Randy Scott.
The incident occurred in the parking lot near the popular Blue Marlin restaurant at the intersection of Gervais and Lincoln streets.
One of the suspects opened the drivers side door and demanded the couples belongings at gunpoint, one of the victims said. It is believed that the male victim then got out of the car and fought with that suspect. The victim was then punched in the face by the second suspect and shot in the chest, according to police.
The victim was transported to a local hospital and was reported by police to be in stable condition Saturday night.
Police Chief Scott is hoping the public can help investigators identify the two suspects. They were seen on surveillance video in the area prior to the incident. They are described as black males wearing dark clothing. One was wearing a black pull-down cap with ear covers while the other wore a red and black plaid pull-down cap with ear covers.
The suspects were seen entering and leaving the area in a dark, late model car, possibly a 2010 -2012 Dodge Avenger.
Scott encourages citizens with information about the incident to call, text or submit online their anonymous tip to Crimestoppers by calling, toll-free, 888-CRIME-SC; texting to CRIMES (274637), and marking the beginning of the message with TIPSC, followed by the tip information; or logging on to www.midlandscrimestoppers.com and clicking on the Submit a Tip tab. Tipsters could earn up to a $1,000 cash reward.
As police continued to investigate Saturday, area residents and business owners said they were shocked.
The neighborhood has always been incredibly safe and active, said Fred Delk, who has been the executive director for the Columbia Development Corp. since 1996.
Delk said as long as he has been working in the area, he has never heard of an incident involving a shooting spurred from a crime.
These kinds of things just dont happen here, he said.
Like others Saturday, Delk, whose offices are one block from where the incident happened, was concerned for the status of the man shot.
Longtime Vista business owner and resident Clark Ellefson, also told The State he had never heard of such an incident occurring in the area.
Ellefson, who owns the Lewis + Clark gallery, works within the block. Ellefson also co-owns the popular late night venue, Art Bar, which was holding an End of the World party Friday night.
Along with those revelers, hundreds, possibly thousands, would have been out and about the district known for its restaurants, shops and nightspots, officials said.
Many restaurants close around 11 p.m. but are still working to shut down for the night, Luadzers said.
And bars are still open around that time, she said. There isnt any reason to be shocked that there would be foot traffic down there at 1 a.m.
As of Saturday afternoon, Luadzers who had notified guild members, had only heard back from a few of those due to the newness of the incident. But those she said, were shocked and concerned for not only for the safety of patrons and those who visit the area, but for employees as well.
We have a thriving daytime economy as well as a thriving nighttime economy, she said. So there is a high employee rate both day and night.
Luadzers said she had contacted the Columbia Police Department on behalf of the guild to see if the department would increase patrols.
At this point, what were really trying to do is keep the Vista as safe as possible, she said. And thats going to take our officers.
With the citys planned Famously Hot New Years Eve a little over a week away, Luadzers said it was also critical to consider the numbers of people who would be out for the Main Street draw. Guild members expect to see a lot of foot traffic between the Main Street and Vista corridors, which are just blocks apart, she said.
New Years in general is popular for Columbia, she said. We need to make sure people dont feel like they cant come out.