Associate pastor charged in fatal park shooting bonds out of jail

Associate pastor charged in fatal park shooting bonds out of jail

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - The congregation of a church in Columbia has questions as one of the leaders that members look to for guidance is now facing charges in connection with a fatal shooting.

Columbia police arrested 22-year-old Gene Autrey Morris, Jr. on Tuesday. Investigators believe Morris brought an illegal firearm to Finlay Park on the night of May 27 and got into an argument with 37-year-old Laron Martin.

Martin suffered a fatal gunshot wound at the park and later died.

"It hurt me when I heard about it because he never did anything wrong to anybody. He's a friendly guy," Junior Dinkins, a member of the Second Nazareth Baptist Church, said.

Church leaders say Morris had been involved with the congregation for several years and most recently had been serving as an associate pastor. Within the last month, Morris also graduated from Allen University.

"I never see him out of character or out of place. He's always helping with the congregation and members of the church," said Jada Myers, who is also a member at Second Nazareth.

Authorities believe Morris went out to the park after getting a phone call from two females who were allegedly being harassed by Martin. Investigators also say Morris left the scene without calling the police after the shooting.

Morris is charged with unlawful possession of a pistol. On Wednesday a judge set bond in the case at $75,000 surety. He was released on bond Thursday.

The Columbia Police Department is continuing to investigate the matter and authorities say more charges could be filed.

Copyright 2017 WIS. All rights reserved.