Columbia police do not expect to charge anyone else in connection with last weekend’s fatal shooting at Finlay Park.
However, charges against 22-year-old Gene Autry Morris could be upgraded or expanded, according to police.
Morris was released from Alvin S. Glenn Detention Center Wednesday under a $7,500 surety bond, according to Richland County court records. He is charged with unlawful carrying of a pistol in connection with the May 27 shooting death of 37-year-old Laron L. Martin. The misdemeanor charge carries up to a year in prison.
Police spokeswoman Jennifer Timmons said investigators are consulting with the 5th Circuit Solicitor’s Office to determine if the charge needs to be upgraded or more charges added.
Morris is accused of shooting Martin during an argument in the downtown park, Timmons said. Martin, of Carroll Drive in West Coluumbia, died around 2:40 a.m. Sunday from a gunshot wound to the torso.
“We have to determine the circumstances surrounding that,” she said. “Several people said they hear them arguing before the shooting occurred.”
Martin was verbally harassing two women who were spending time in the park around 8 p.m., Timmons said. One of the women called Morris and asked him to come to the park. Investigators say Morris stopped by his home to get a pistol, for which he did not have a valid concealed weapons permit.
The argument between Martin and Morris stemmed from Martin’s alleged harassment of the women, Timmons said. Investigators do not believe Martin knew Morris or either of the two women.
It remained unclear Thursday how many shots were fired, or if Morris had a weapon.
“This is an on-going investigation,” Timmons said. “Additional details will be released when and if appropriate.”
Knocks at the door Thursday went unanswered at the address listed for Morris in Richland County court records.
Reactions of residents in the nearby Arsenal Hill neighborhood were mixed several days after the shooting, which is believed to be the first homicide in the park.
Anna Young, 23, was not surprised.
“I’ve been told by several people – especially being a girl – don’t go there,” she said. “I’ve been before. It is a really pretty park. I think at night it gets to be a pretty unsafe environment.”
Reggie Lauren, 86, was shocked by the killing and said he goes to the park daily.
“I’ve been very pleased, and I’m still very supportive of the park,” he said. “Hearing people (say), be careful – What do you mean be careful? I’ve never seen anything out there.”
Morris had no prior criminal record in South Carolina before his arrest, according to State Law Enforcement Division records. Martin had a record going back to 1997 that included multiple convictions for criminal domestic violence and a conviction for criminal domestic violence of a high and aggravated nature, according to SLED.