(10-8-2002) Columbia store owner fights off would-be robbers in shootout, 2 of 3 suspects in custody - wistv.com - Columbia, South Carolina |

(10-8-2002) Columbia store owner fights off would-be robbers in shootout, 2 of 3 suspects in custody

(Columbia) Oct. 9, 2002 - A robbery attempt led to gunfire at Ntense Kustoms & Car Audio on Percival Road Tuesday morning. Two of three suspects are now in custody, one in critical condition, one charged with armed robbery and armed robbery with a deadly weapon.

Authorities say three people entered the store around 9:00am near Alpine Road in Northeast Richland County. The owner of the shop, Sterling Patterson, says, "I saw a guy jump out the side door of the van, and he pulled a white rag over his face. That gave me the indication he was going to rob us."

So Patterson, who had a gun in his shop, immediately went to the back of the store for his 9mm handgun. When he came out, he says co-worker Andrae Stokes was on the ground under the gun of an armed robber, "When I got the gun, I said 'Okay, do I want to negotiate or, you know, just try to get them out.' And, being that a guy had a gun, I didn't want them to take a chance, so, when I came out, you know, I opened fire."

Patterson says he fired at least twice at the men, "When I came in, they pointed the guns at me and just opened fire. I don't know who was shooting. One of the guys, he kind of jumped, the one that had the gun at Andrae, he jumped up. I don't know exactly what all happened but they were shooting back and I was shooting."

Stokes says the men had ordered him to the floor. "He laid me on the ground and said don't move. If I move, he'll shoot me. Point blank." said Stokes. "You think it's a joke, and then you start thinking it's for real. So I thought, he's really going to shoot me. Everything they told me, I was going to cooperate, even though they're going to shoot me."

It's not clear how many shots were fired or who fired them.

Stokes had earlier wondered earlier if Patterson needed at gun at all, "He owned a gun and I was kind of like, you know, 'You don't need no gun,' but a small business like this, yes, you do. Because, there is a lot of crazy people out there, and you don't know what they can do."

The suspects left the store in a burgundy Mazda minivan, which authorities say developed a flat tire on Interstate 77 southbound near Forest Drive.

Richland County Sheriff's Department spokesman Lt. Joseph Pellicci says as deputies closed in, two of the men ran into the neighborhood near Shady Lane, leaving a third suspect behind, "We surrounded the vehicle from a safe distance. About that time, the suspect opened the back door of the vehicle, came out of the vehicle himself and fell out on the ground. He had received gunshot wounds."

The wounded suspect was taken to Palmetto Richland Memorial in critical condition. His name is Demetrio Sears.

Police later caught up with Willie Alexander, 26, of Columbia who was transferred to Richland County's Alvin S. Glenn Detention Center charged with armed robbery and armed robbery with a deadly weapon. Another suspect remains at large.

"It's kind of disgusting that somebody can do this," said Lashanta Patterson, wife of the audio shop's owner. Referring to her husband, Patterson said, "I mean, he's trying to start something. He's 23 years old, has his own business. It has to be jealously, envy. But, it's kind of disgusting that somebody can do this. Instead of getting out there and working for yourself, you gotta come take somebody

Richland County investigators recommend citizens take whatever action is necessary at the time to protect themselves and their property. They say if you feel your life or your family's life is in danger, do what you have to do to defend yourself.

As for Sterling Patterson, he says his gun, "Saved my life."

Nearby AC Flora High School student were not dismissed for lunch because of the search. Brockman Elementary, Brennan Elementary, Satchel Ford Elementary and Crayton Middle Schools, along with Kathwood Baptist Church's pre-school were all locked down during the search.

Traffic on the interstate was slowed for a time. Police used dogs, officers on horseback and the Richland County Sheriff's Department's helicopter in a search that lasted several hours. After about three hours, the search was scaled back and the roads re-opened.

Anyone with any information is asked to call the Richland County Sheriff's Department.

By Jack Kuenzie
updated 8:30am by Chris Rees

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