COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Nearly six months after two men were found dead of carbon monoxide poisoning in their Allen Benedict Court apartments, the Columbia Police Department said it is “very close” to completing its investigation into what happened.
Once the investigation is complete, it will turn its findings over to the Fifth Circuit Solicitor’s Office for review and determine if any criminal charges will be filed. The investigation, launched earlier this year, includes support from SLED, the Inspector General of HUD, the Columbia Fire Department and the solicitor’s office.
James Witherspoon, the brother of Calvin Witherspoon Jr., 61, who died in his apartment, said he is furious with the lack of information he’s received from officials.
“To me, it feels like the city is working along with the housing authority because Gilbert Walker and Bobby Gist’s a** should be in jail and whoever else they were sending over there to fix things in that apartment and didn’t get fixed,” Witherspoon said.
He said he spoke to his brother the Sunday before his passing, as he was headed out the door to the church. Several of Witherspoon’s other siblings tried to contact him Tuesday and Wednesday of the same week, but it went to voicemail, he said. Witherspoon Jr. was found dead in his apartment on Thursday, January 17.
“The city police department, the mayor’s office, the housing authority—they don’t give a damn about the victims,” he said. “Nothing at all.”
The day of his brother’s death, Witherspoon said he was on scene and saw his brother’s body being taken away by the coroner. He spoke with Columbia Fire Chief Aubrey Jenkins, he said but claims no other official has ever reached out to him with information or condolences.
“Gilbert Walker, you know, he’s going to get on TV and say he didn’t know they needed carbon monoxide detectors in there,” he said. “But you’re supposed to be running the place and you don’t know what the hell is going on? That’s bullsh*t.”
Witherspoon said he wants to see former executive director Gilbert Walker along with former board chairman Bobby Gist criminally charged as a result of his brother’s death.
“My brother Calvin and the other gentleman, Roper, the housing authority murdered them,” he said.
He is also seeking accountability from the mayor’s office, who he said is partly to blame for his brother’s death.
“When that investigation wraps up, the public will know exactly what’s happening and certainly the families will know first,” Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin said. “It’s not the mayor’s prerogative to talk about an ongoing investigation and I won’t start doing that now.”
WIS reached out to the Columbia Housing Authority for a response but has not yet heard back.