A pair of Kentucky football fans were on their way back to their downtown hotel early Saturday morning when one of them was struck in the face by a bullet fired outside of a downtown Columbia nightclub.
Jimmy Brannon’s girlfriend, Denise Massey, was one of eight people injured when shots were fired outside of the Empire Supper Club in the Vista just after 2 a.m. Saturday, according to public Facebook posts by Brannon.
The pair were “having the time of our lives” the night before their Kentucky football team met the University of South Carolina Gamecocks at Williams-Brice Stadium, Brannon wrote on Facebook.
Brannon said he and Massey had checked into a Columbia hotel about 9:15 p.m. Friday and decided to go eat at Pearl’s Oyster Bar, in a telephone interview with the Lexington Herald-Leader, a sister publication of The State newspaper in Kentucky.
“We then went to the Vista neighborhood and met the nicest people,” he said. “We were talking about politics and football and having a good time. It was a very nice place, you could have brought kids there.”
While walking outside to return to the hotel, Brannon said he took a photo of Massey sitting on a bench.
“For some reason, the first thing I thought of was the assassination attempt on President Reagan,” Brannon said in an phone interview with the Lexington Herald-Leader in Kentucky, a sister publication of The State newspaper.
“Someone shouted, ‘duck down’ and we did,” Brannon said. When he turned to check on Massey, who was “a couple feet ahead” of him, he saw her lying on the ground covered in blood.
“I didn’t think she was going to live,” Brannon said.
An ambulance rushed Massey to a hospital, but Brannon said the police would not let him go with her or tell him where she was going. He was later told trauma victims were being rushed to Palmetto Health Richland hospital, where he found Massey.
Brannon wrote on his Facebook page that Massey was in critical condition at a Columbia hospital on Saturday, with a gunshot wound to the cheek area.
The bullet shattered some bone and exited the back of her neck without damaging her spinal cord, Brannon wrote.
“She is going to be in icu for some time but with the prayers of my friends and hers, which she desperately needs, there is hope for a full recovery,” he wrote.
University of South Carolina President Harris Pastides said he was unable to speak with Brannon or visit Massey when he stopped by the hospital earlier on Saturday. He did say, however, that Massey was receiving the “absolute best care” that could be provided.
Pastides lamented the shooting and that innocent victims were injured. As of Saturday, Pastides said that he had received no reports that any USC student was involved in the shooting.
“It doesn’t change the magnitude of the incident,” Pastides said. “We care deeply about our innocent members in our community. It’s a terrible incident... It affects our city. It affects our morale.”
Pastides said he’s been speaking with Massey’s parents, who were headed to Columbia on Saturday.
In his latest update on Facebook, Brannon thanked his friends and family who had prayed for him and Massey and sent him well wishes.
“I just need Denise out of harms way.....and then after that, get rid of these bloody clothes, and quit crying long enough to go to sleep for a half hour.”