Politics & Government

Columbia pusher knew his drugs would kill USC student, feds allege

McMaster says SC needs a "full court press" to tackle opioid crisis

In his State of the State address, Gov. McMaster talks about the opioid crisis and the statewide public health emergency. Courtesy of SCETV.
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In his State of the State address, Gov. McMaster talks about the opioid crisis and the statewide public health emergency. Courtesy of SCETV.

An accused Columbia drug dealer furnished the drugs that killed a University of South Carolina student in her room at downtown’s Hub high-rise apartments, according to charges in state and federal court.

The alleged dealer, Anthony “A.J.” Hunt, 22, was arraigned in federal court Monday on charges that he intentionally caused the death of Rachel Bandman, 19, by providing her with a fatal dose of drugs.

Bandman, a public relations major at USC and Chi Omega sorority sister from Virginia, was found dead by her roommate at Main Street’s Hub apartment complex on a weekday afternoon in January 2016.

“Mr. Hunt had every reason to believe that death would occur when he distributed the drug,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Ben Garner told U.S. Magistrate Judge Shiva Hodges in a five-minute hearing at the federal courthouse in Columbia.

The charge against Hunt is illegal distribution of Oxycodone resulting in death, according to his indictment. If convicted, he would face a federal prison sentence of 20 years to life. Hunt also is charged with possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug crime.

Oxycodone is a powerful narcotic prescription drug often used illegally to produce a “high.” It is one of the most popular illegally used drugs in the country and is responsible for hundreds of deaths a year.

Until Monday’s hearing, Bandman’s cause of death had not been announced. In 2016, after her death, law officers reported no signs of trauma or forced entry into her room.

Richland County corner Gary Watts told The State that he originally classified Bandman’s death as “suspicious but accidental,” meaning that circumstances indicated she accidentally had overdosed.

But after Monday’s hearing, Watts said Bandman’s death now is classified as a “homicide,” meaning she deliberately was killed.

Law enforcement officers declined to comment Monday on what evidence led them to charge Hunt in Bandman’s death.

According to state law enforcement records, Hunt was arrested last year in his apartment near USC. There, officers from the Columbia Police Department’s narcotics unit found “multiple bags containing green plant material and multiple scales located throughout the living room area.” Police also found $10,000 in cash.

Hunt, who was charged with possession of marijuana with intent to distribute, had been free on $10,000 bond since last March. That case is pending.

He was arrested Friday on the federal charges and is being held until a bond hearing is set.

Hunt’s apartment, at 1614 Greene St. is less than half a block from the USC College of Nursing, at 1601 Greene St. He is also charged with distributing drugs near a school.

Besides the coroner’s office, agencies involved in the investigation of Bandman’s death included the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Columbia Police Department, the 5th Circuit Solicitor’s office and the U.S. Attorney’s office, coroner Watts said.

Hunt is being represented by federal public defender Katherine Evatt on the federal charges.

The Hub is a popular downtown apartment complex located several blocks from USC’s main campus. The 21-story tower houses nearly 850 USC students and young professionals.