COLUMBIA, SC — A private security guard lost his service weapon early Friday morning while breaking up a fight outside a fast food restaurant in Five Points.
The officer, who worked for Black Ops Protection, did not know the gun had been taken out of his holster until after the fight had ended, according to a Columbia Police Department incident report.
Now, Columbia police are searching for the stolen weapon as they prepare to step up enforcement in Five Points and the Vista over the weekend.
A shot was fired during the fight, which happened on Senate Street behind the Cook Out restaurant, which is on Harden Street. It is possible the shot was fired from the missing gun as the suspects fled, said interim police chief Ruben Santiago. No one was injured, and police did not find any property that had been damaged by the shot, he said.
Police were called to the Cook Out at 2:30 a.m. to break up the fight, but suspects already had left.
At least two officers from Black Ops Protection, a private security firm, were on duty to provide late-night security at the restaurant.
The officer who lost his gun told police he had used pepper spray and physical force to break up the fight, according to the incident report. No one reported injuries from the pepper spray, the report said.
The security guards at first did not tell police officers about the missing weapon. But police had noticed at least one officer searching for something and when they asked if he was looking for anything in particular he told them “no,” the report said.
About 20 minutes later, the security guard “approached officers and asked what he needed to do if he ‘lost’ his firearm,” the report said.
The security guard eventually told police that he did not notice that the gun had been taken from his nylon holster until after the fight was over, the report said.
The police department redacted the type of gun that was stolen from the incident report it provided to The State newspaper.
On Friday morning, the restaurant’s manager told The State newspaper that he arrived at 8 Friday morning and had not heard about the fight. He also said the night crew, which closed the restaurant at 4 a.m., had not left word about shots being fired.
The Friday night shooting was not the first incident of shots fired at the Cook Out, which is near the Gervais Street intersection.
In July 2012, a former employee shot an employee outside the restaurant during a 9 a.m. robbery attempt.
The Cook Out is a popular late-night hang out for young people who have been partying in Five Points. The restaurant is known for its cheap prices on burgers, fries and other fast food and it is open late.
Santiago said he has set up a meeting with the Cook Out district manager to talk about the problems.
“We don’t want to discourage people from hanging out,” Santiago said. “We know that’s part of their business model.”
On Friday, the police department issued a notice that its traffic safety unit would increase checkpoints in Five Points and the Vista.
The department already was increasing its presence in those areas because of the warm weather, Santiago said.
“We were already planning for this weekend because we were anticipating that the warm weather would bring people out,” he said.
Reporter Anne-Kathryn Flanagan contributed.