Gunmen Open Fire on Teens, Killing 3, Over Old Grievance

South Carolina schoolmate arrested on murder counts
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Sep 25, 2023 5:15 PM CDT
Schoolmate Held in 3 Slayings
Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott and Councilmember Gretchen Barron speak at a news conference on Monday in Columbia, S.C.   (AP Photo/James Pollard)

Two people showed up at an abandoned South Carolina house where four teenagers were hanging out and opened fire, killing three of them and wounding the fourth in an escalation of an old quibble over a burglary, authorities said Monday in Columbia. A 17-year-old Eau Claire High School student was arrested on three counts of murder, one of attempted murder, and one of possessing a weapon during a violent crime, Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott said Monday. Officials are still looking for other people, he said. The teenagers who were killed also attended Eau Claire High School, according to a statement from Craig Witherspoon, the district superintendent. The lone survivor went to a nearby middle school, the AP reports.

The district provided additional counseling and security at the high school Monday in response to the "unimaginable tragedy," which Witherspoon decried as "senseless gun violence." Sheriff's deputies responded to the shooting in Columbia, the state capital, just after 2pm Sunday, the sheriff's department said. After the two shooters opened fire, they followed the victims as they fled to the backyard and continued firing, according to a redacted incident report. It was part of a "beef" that Lott said began two years ago with a burglary. Three victims who were 16 and 17 years old died at the hospital, and the fourth victim, who is 14, was released, the sheriff's department said.

The sheriff would not say how the weapons were obtained. He did say that too many Columbia gunowners leave their firearms in cars, where they are easily stolen. The city had 100 vehicle break-ins this past weekend, Lott said, adding that he was holding a news conference to address "something that seems to be recurring" in Columbia and nationwide. Nine people ages 16 to 20 were injured in a park shooting this spring at an event involving students from Columbia-area high schools, officials noted.

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Witherspoon and other elected officials called for more out-of-school programming by churches, schools and governments. Richland County Councilmember Gretchen Barron said lawmakers cannot legislate "good behavior" and "healthy choices," per the AP. "We need everybody in the village that's standing behind me and the village that's out there listening to this," Lott said. "We need to do more. This proves that we haven't done enough."

(Read more South Carolina stories.)

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