Police describe suspects in Vista shooting as slow, methodical in approach

Officials also say they are no longer pursuing possibility that suspects knew victims

mlucas@thestate.comDecember 29, 2012 

Officials with the Columbia Police Department said they are no longer pursuing the possibility that the suspects involved in the shooting and attempted robbery in the Vista on Dec. 22 knew the victims.

“We’re pretty convinced that there is no association there,” deputy police chief Ruben Santiago said Friday afternoon.

The incident, which left a male victim shot in the chest, occurred in the heart of the popular Vista shopping and entertainment district, near the intersection of Gervais and Lincoln streets. It happened at about 1 a.m., just after a couple in their early 20s had gotten into their car.

Earlier in the week, Santiago said police were pursuing the possibility that the robbery was not a random act after seeing a surveillance video which caught the incident as it happened.

Looking into that and other such scenarios is not uncommon, spokeswoman for the department Jennifer Timmons said, especially in cases involving a violent crime. But Santiago said it was also the suspects’ mannerisms that caused investigators to take a second look.

“It’s not the typical robbery,” he said. “Usually we see a rushed approach and that wasn’t the case (here).”

The suspects, who have been described as black males wearing dark clothing and wearing winter hats, were “slower and more purposeful” in their mannerisms, Santiago said.

“They were methodical,” he said. “And that’s something we don’t see very often.”

After the suspects approached the couple, the male victim got out of his vehicle and a struggle ensued, an incident report states. The victim was shot right above the collar bone, according to the police incident report released Thursday. He was last reported to be in stable condition.

His ability to communicate has improved, Timmons said Friday, and he continues to work with investigators.

While police are continuing to search for the suspects and follow up with leads, officials say they strongly caution residents against trying to overcome a robber, especially if that person is armed.

“Life isn’t worth getting hurt over something that can be replaced,” Santiago said. “They usually just want what they want, so we encourage people to give up valuables.”

Residents should also be wary of those approaching them in a similar manner, he said.

“You want to be alert and stay alert,” he said. “If anything doesn’t look right or seem right, safeguard yourself.”

That could be good advice for the thousands of people expected to be on Main Street for Monday night’s Famously Hot New Year’s Eve celebration.

One of the suspects 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. Those with information about the incident are being asked to call 888-CRIME-SC.

Reach Lucas at (803) 771-8657.

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