As the 2015 State Fair starts to fade into memory, investigators still are pursuing suspects in a shooting that injured a 15-year-old at the fair Saturday.
The teen remains in stable condition, said Lt. Curtis Wilson with the Richland County Sheriff’s Department. Officials have not released his name or the specifics of why he was shot. “We are still working this case,” Wilson said Monday.
Fair manager Gary Goodman said security measures at the fair are examined and tweaked every year. “This past year, we found there were people who had weapons you bought and put on key chains, and it looks like a key almost,” Goodman said. “And so, you can’t just say, ‘Oh that’s a key chain’ — you have to look at it closely. This year, we confiscated quite a few of those.”
Pocket knives, sprays and other weapons confiscated are disposed of by deputies. Anyone who wants to keep the items must return them to a vehicle before entering the fair.
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Fair officials develop security guidelines in consultation with the Sheriff’s Department, Goodman said.
The metal detectors at the fair are managed by fair staff, who also conduct bag searches, he said. Off-duty deputies are hired to provide security and will examine entrants with a wand if a metal detector goes off.
But some fair visitors said security measures aren’t enforced as strongly as they should be.
Debbie Corbett of the Oak Grove area came out to spend time with her grandchildren Sunday and what she saw gave her cause for concern. “My daughter went through, and (the metal detector) made a noise, and she came back through and she said, ‘Think it’s my boots?’ But they (security personnel) don’t make you take your boots off or anything,” Corbett said.
Goodman declined to comment without having seen the specific incident, and Wilson referred questions on the matter to the fair manager.
Investigators have not released what the 15-year-old shot has told them and have not recovered the gun.
“We have to get the actual person who did the shooting to get that gun,” Wilson said. “You may think they probably dropped it and ran, but that wasn’t the case.”
Sheriff Leon Lott said Saturday the shooting was not gang-related. He rejected a report of a gang fight Friday at the fair that could have led to a Saturday confrontation.
Goodman said deputies did eject two rowdy groups from the fair earlier Saturday in unrelated incidents. “If they look like they’re up to no good, we take them right off.”
The number of deputies working security at the fair ranged from a low of 74 to a high of 104, Goodman said. Sixteen Columbia police officers worked traffic each day, he added.
Many of the deputies the fair employs also are school resource officers, Goodman said. Those officers keep in touch with students at their schools and warn fair officials if there’s talk of upcoming criminal activity.
Glen Luke Flanagan: 803-771-8305
Fair attendance falls a bit
Attendance at the 2015 State Fair was the lowest it has been in five years. According to fair officials, attendance totaled:
- 429,947 in 2015
- 473,359 in 2014
- 472,718 in 2013
- 452,576 in 2012
- 442,494 in 2011