UPDATE: Columbia police hunt leads in Vista shooting

jmonk@thestate.comDecember 23, 2012 

The victim of an early Saturday morning shooting in an apparent armed robbery in Columbia’s popular Vista hospitality area is in a local hospital in stable condition, Columbia police said Sunday.

The victim, a man in his early 20s, was not identified.

Deputy police chief Ruben Santiago said detectives are searching for two suspects, one of whom shot in the victim in the chest after he resisted an apparent armed robbery in a parking lot near the Blue Marlin restaurant at the intersection of Gervais and Lincoln streets.

A BOLO (Be On the Lookout) for a vehicle believed driven by the suspects has also been issued, and officers are keeping an eye out for the vehicle as they patrol city streets, Santiago said.

That vehicle is possibly a late model Dodge Avenger, police said.

Police are also exploring the possibility that the suspects may have known the victim, Santiago said. “We are not sure if this was a random act, but we are continuing to investigate any possible connection.”

The shooting happened around 1 a.m. Saturday as the victim and a female friend got into their car in the parking lot. The two suspects then approached the car. One suspect opened the driver’s side door and demanded the couple’s belongings at gunpoint, one of the victims told police.

Police said the driver then got out of the car and fought with the suspect with the gun. The second suspect then punched the victim in the face and shot him in the chest, according to police.

Police are not certain how much, or whether any, money was taken, Santiago said.

Images of the suspects were captured 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.

“We’re hoping somebody will recognize them,” Santiago said.

Citizens with information can 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.

Reach Monk at (803) 771-8344.

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