COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott expressed sadness in the recent arrests of three teens in the killing of an innocent man taking out his trash during a gang-related shooting.
Sheriff Lott said that the victim, 58-year-old Ronald A. Bonnette, of Columbia, was taking out his trash on Friday, Oct. 26, when two rival gangs were shooting at one another in an apartment complex parking lot.
Bonnette was a husband of 37 years and father to 16 children. His wife, Mary, said she forgives the suspects charged in her husband’s killing, something he would have wanted.
“I just want the young people to know that you took something from us that was great but the God I am serving is able to hold me up. I forgive you all and I pray you all see God’s face,” she said. “I gave my best years to Ronald Bonnette and because of that, I have closure.”
Bonnette’s fourth oldest, his daughter Brittany, said she is thankful her father was able to walk her down the aisle at her wedding in 2017.
“I was his first daughter to ever get married and I just had a son, he’s three months old and my father was able to see him and make a bond with him,” she said. “I’m grateful for that, had God not blessed me with him, my father would not have been able to meet him so even in a tragedy, I’m thankful for that.”
Sheriff Leon Lott said more arrests in Bonnette’s murder could be forthcoming as the department continues its investigation.
“Not many people probably pay attention to this funeral, but I think it’s very significant because it indicates the problem we have here in Columbia,” Lott said.
Elijah Gilmore, Messiah Cornish, and DyQuan King, have all been charged with murder, among other charges in the shooting. Lott did not mention the two gangs by name, but did confirm that the shooting was gang-related.
Isiah Bonnette, 22, said he knew the suspected shooters from school and saw them at a gas station shortly after the shooting.
“I didn’t know that when they shot the guns off, the person that was killed was my dad,” he said. “What they did was a coward move. They took everything from me and my family.”
Four guns were recovered from the shooting and two of them were stolen, Lott said. He said it is too easy for kids the age of the suspects to get guns.
“Thought they could go out here and just do it. Sad. Sad that we have such a problem in our community," Lott said. “Hope that it’s a wake up call that we have a community problem with young people with guns who do not care.”
Lott went on to say that at least 25 rounds were shot in the apartment complex, with some hitting occupied units. Since April 24, 553 guns have been confiscated by law enforcement, and 113 of those guns were stolen.
“This isn’t a law enforcement problem, we’re locking people up," Lott said.
This is the second fatal shooting where an innocent bystander was killed in a gang-related crime. In August, Nakya Scott was shot and killed inside her home in front of her children.
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