Lawsuit alleges Columbiana Centre at fault in mass shooting, cites security failures

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Published: Jul. 21, 2022 at 12:14 PM EDT|Updated: Jul. 22, 2022 at 10:07 AM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - A little more than three months after an Easter weekend mass shooting at the Columbiana Centre mall injured 15, two of those 15 are suing the mall’s ownership company and its security provider for $20,000,000.

The lawsuit accuses Brookfield Properties, which operates the mall, and Andy Frain Services, the security company, of security failures, and alleges recklessness and negligence.

Neither company has responded to requests for comment.

On April 16, 15 people were injured, 9 with gunshot wounds, after Columbia Police say suspects opened fire inside the mall near the Gap store and the food court.

RELATED STORY | Officers responding to shooting at Columbiana Centre

The ages of those shot range from 15 to 73.

The shooting led to multiple roads shutting down and a multi-day manhunt by law enforcement to apprehend the suspects.

Three people have been charged in the shooting, with investigators saying it stemmed from an ongoing, isolated conflict among them.

This is first known lawsuit filed in the wake of the shooting.

It was filed by former Sen. Vincent Sheheen, D-Kershaw, and Greg Collins.

WIS reached out to their law firm Savage, Royall & Sheheen for comment, but was told that both of them were unavailable Thursday.

The lawsuit claims these two women, who are sisters, experienced fear and trauma as a result of the shooting. It also alleges that both companies failed in their duty to provide a safe and secure environment for the women.

The lawsuit says, “Defendants have taken heightened securities measures at other similar facilities including increased signage, gun sniffing dogs, and other processes to control crime that they did not utilize at Columbiana Centre.”

The lawsuit says the women suffered significant injuries at the mall that day, some of which resulted in “hospitalization, surgeries, rehabilitation, and life altering damages to the body and mental wellbeing.”

The lawsuit argues that the mall should have known it was a dangerous environment, and taken steps to enhance security.

“Defendants refused to take appropriate measures to provide for the safety of its patrons, when they knew or should have known, that a dangerous environment existed,” it states.

The lawsuit claims that the Columbia Police Department has more than 100 incident reports on file for crimes at or near the mall in the last five years.

Columbia Police declined to comment Thursday, citing pending litigation.

The lawsuit also says that the two women only received immediate care from one retail associate at the mall, and the mall and security company should have better trained employees for this type of situation.

“The resulting chaos caused by the shooting created even more fear and trauma for the Plaintiffs,” it reads.

Jennifer Newsome, a witness to the shooting, expressed a similar sentiment to WIS hours after it happened.

RELATED STORY | Columbiana Centre Mall reopens following weekend shooting

“I’ve never been in a situation like this, and the first time I’m hoping that it’s the only time,” she said. “I know for me it was so traumatic I don’t think I’ll be going to the mall anytime soon. It would be just too traumatizing for me to go right now.”

The lawsuit also argues that local police advised the mall to increase security before this shooting, but claims that never happened.

“Defendants were also on notice of security issues about the premises of the mall prior to the above-mentioned shooting due to local law enforcement advising the mall to increase security presence on the premises due to the history of criminal activity at the Columbiana Centre,” it states.

Columbiana Centre has enhanced security in the months since, including adding a firearm-detecting K-9 to patrol the mall.

RELATED STORY | Columbiana Centre adds firearm detecting K9 security

Shortly after the dog was introduced, a woman and a 13-year-old were arrested after allegedly showing a loaded gun to other patrons.

Jail records show that the three suspects remain behind bars after being denied bond.

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