Richland County Coroner to hold formal inquest into fatal May shooting

rlowe@thestate.comJuly 31, 2013 

Columbia Police Department


Richland County Coroner Gary Watts said Wednesday he will hold a formal inquest into the May 25 death of a man who was shot and killed after a tense standoff with Columbia Police.

Ajani Mitchell, 21, was shot several times by officers in a backyard between North Main Street and Farrow Road, about two miles northeast of Columbia College. Three Columbia police officers involved in the shooting are on paid administrative leave.

Watts said he decided to hold a formal inquest after numerous calls from the community about the shooting and after reviewing the State Law Enforcement Division investigation into the shooting. Such inquests are rare.

The standoff between the Columbia Police and Mitchell occurred after police were called by a woman who said her son had threatened her and had a gun. Earlier in the day, officers responded to a call from the same woman who told them that she had an argument with her son, that he was armed and was acting strangely.

Upon returning to the house Saturday night, police saw Mitchell, who had a gun in his hand.

Watts, who was on the scene, said Mitchell jumped over a backyard fence, and officers gave chase.

Mitchell was shot multiple times after he refused to follow officers’ commands to drop his weapon, Columbia Police spokeswoman Jennifer Timmons, said at the time.

Officers felt threatened and opened fire, she said.

“That night officers were confronted with a dangerous situation and acted appropriately given the circumstances they faced,” interim chief Ruben Santiago said in a statement Wednesday.

Watts said the inquest will “allow citizens to see that the system works and will provide total transparency” to the process.

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