Columbia Interim Police Chief Ruben Santiago said investigators are very close to making arrests in connection with several shootings where two men were fatally shot and three others injured within a 24-hour period.
Santiago spoke with WIS Saturday night in Five Points where several agencies were patrolling as Gamecocks fans flocked to the hospitality district after the game.
"This weekend has been very terrible when it comes to the violent crime," Santiago said. "We do have good leads on the individual shooters in each one of these incidents. We hope to bring them to closure as far as an arrest very soon, that's when we really will figure out the pieces when it comes to whether or not its gang-related or drug-related."
On Friday night, three people were shot in the 700 block of Martha Street. One of those men, Nathaniel McKelvin, was killed in the incident.
Sonji Priester, a family friend of McKelvin's, says it's time for the violence to stop.
"I don't know how much I can stress that," said Priester. "It has to come to an end."
Columbia Police had extra patrols in that neighborhood.
"Officers heard the shots and responded to that area actually before the 911 call came out," said CPD Maj. Melron Kelly.
The remaining two victims in that case have been questioned by police, no arrests have been made so far.
Just hours later, shots rang out again, this time four miles away at the Colony Apartments. Police found 21-year-old Willie Gilmore unconscious on the ground. He didn't live in the apartments.
"We're finding that people who come out here cause trouble," said Kelly. "We're working with the management and we do meet with them monthly."
Sixteen hours later, shots rang out again, just a block away in a separate shooting that has police looking to charge Jamere Haile with attempted murder. Haile's criminal history dates back to 2008 with two misdemeanors for drug possession and giving false information. The one thing in common from the shootings is that all were arguments that appear to have escalated.
"What we are seeing here is people unfortunately are trying to deal with problems using a gun instead of words or calling the police and that's where we are seeing these problems when we see these acts of violence," Santiago said. "These acts of violence are ones that we are always worried about. The ones we've been talking about specifically when it comes to gun violence but also, the gangs and what they're doing out here, so we are stepping up our efforts to make sure we are being a deterrent."
Community push back and cooperation, Santiago said, will help deter more violent crimes in the city.
"It's going to take a partnership with the communities looking at it as a whole," he said. "You have a lot of people that really care about the community and they want to improve it."
Santiago added, "The thing we need the most is we need cooperation. A lot of these investigations we've been very fortunate to bring them to resolutions but the one thing I worry about the most is the perception and the fear of crime and when we have these very violent acts of crime they send out these waves of fear in our community."
"We need to figure out how we can take back our communities and win back to show the criminals we are not going to tolerate it," he said.
Mayor Steve Benjamin agreed, saying the onus is on law enforcement and the community to work together to address the crime problems.
"We're going to have to figure out how we do it together. We're going to have to figure out how we're going to do with some thoughtful progressive community, working hard, being unapologetic," said Benjamin.
If you know anything about any of the shootings, you are urged to call Crimestoppers at 1-888-CRIME-SC.
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