Columbia “will not let some troublemakers define who we are” after eight people were shot overnight in the Vista, Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin said Saturday.
Benjamin took to Twitter with strong words of both condemnation and reassurance after the early morning shooting outside the Empire Supper Club at Lady and Park streets in one of the city’s most popular nightlife districts.
“Sick & tired of this culture of senseless violence that grips our country,” Benjamin wrote in one tweet.
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“Our businesses are open & we are not going to let some troublemakers define who we are to our guests,” he said in another.
The shots were fired in an apparent altercation between two opposing groups shortly after 2 a.m. Saturday outside the Empire Supper Club, Columbia police say. Dozens of people scattered in all directions, and eight were injured by bullets.
Police Chief Skip Holbrook and City Manager Teresa Wilson echoed the mayor’s disgust toward the violence Saturday afternoon, speaking together at a news conference.
“This is a bad situation, and we have got to recognize that gun crime can’t be tolerated,” Holbrook said. “There is such a positive energy in this town, and we can not ... let thugs dictate our quality of life. It’s just absolutely unacceptable.”
Wilson made a point of saying that Columbia is overall a “safe community,” although “we know that bad things happen, and bad people come into our communities to do bad things.”
“We want to reassure the public that they have nothing to worry about as far as the (police) coverage today and any day,” Wilson said. “But we know this is an unnerving situation.”