Richland County resident alleges racial profiling after Columbia Place Mall shooting

Published: Nov. 19, 2022 at 11:16 AM EST|Updated: Nov. 19, 2022 at 11:31 AM EST
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - A Richland County man alleges he was racially profiled after the Columbia Place Mall shooting on Saturday, Nov. 12.

He says the profiling happened when he was surrounded by deputies on a night when deputies were searching for a criminal suspect.

Jereal Williams says security cameras outside his home captured the moment officers and deputies arrived.

Williams says he was sitting in his car parked outside of his home when deputies with the Richland County Sheriff’s Department and officers with the Columbia Police Department approached him with their weapons drawn.

Jereal Williams says it’s a night he’ll never forget, and for his kids, it’s an image they’ll never be able to get out of their heads -- their stepfather on his knees with his hands behind his back.

His family watched from just a few feet away.

“It just brought me this feeling like this is my last night. These are my last days,” said Jereal Williams.

Surveillance video shows police surrounding Williams’ white Jeep. In the video, his pregnant fiancé can be heard questioning the police.

“I tried to keep asking them questions because they really weren’t answering me, they just kept telling me to step back, and that I was interfering with their investigation,” said Williams.

Williams says he and his family had just returned from a family outing moments before the incident occurred. He decided to walk his pregnant fiancé and their children inside the house and then decided to return outside to feed his dogs.

Williams says, “I saw Richland County and Columbia Police ride by a few times, and I saw them shining their lights into the yards, so I knew at that point that they were looking for somebody.”

But Williams said he didn’t think much about it, so he sat down in his car for a few moments, then saw deputies and officers lined up in front of his home.

“When they came in, they all had their weapons drawn. After I saw that they had their lights on and weapons drawn, pointing at my car, they were ordering me to get out of the car,” he said.

Williams said he did as law enforcement told him—he put his hands up – then got down to his knees before he was ordered to lay down on his stomach. He said the moment was unfolding right in front of his 13-year-old son.

“That was devastating for them. They shouldn’t never have to see, the authorities treat someone of my caliber like their father figure like that, and they know doesn’t do anything wrong,” said Williams.

The Richland County Sheriff’s Department does confirm that they were searching for a White SUV and that Williams white Jeep Wrangler fit that description. Williams says he just wants both agencies to apologize for the incident.

WIS reached out to a spokesperson with RCSD. Richland County does confirm a complaint was filed and says they are currently investigating and declined to comment any further.

WIS also reached out to CPD, which released a statement on the incident.

Statement from Columbia Police Department:

CPD officers assisted RCSD with the recent active shooter call at Columbia Place Mall.

At that time, law enforcement officers were actively searching for an armed and violent suspect in close proximity to the crime scene.

The vehicle the gentleman occupied on Claudia Drive matched the description of the shooting suspect’s vehicle.

A CPD Officer assisted RCSD in momentarily detaining the gentleman, asking questions, and explaining the reason for the detainment before he was released.

Per CPD protocol and as with all weapon displays, the matter will be reviewed to determine if the officer’s actions were within policy.

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