‘We were in the middle of flying bullets:’ Meadowlake Park mass shooting witness’ car shot up

One woman who witnessed the mass shooting at Meadowlake Park
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Published: May. 10, 2023 at 3:41 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - A witness to the Meadowlake Park mass shooting in Columbia recounts the harrowing details about the night that she was inches away from disaster.

The shooting happened overnight on April 29 at the park off Wilson Boulevard.

Eleven people were injured, most of them teenagers. Nine were shot.

The woman’s vehicle was caught in the crossfire as she went to pick up her daughter from the park that night.

They were unharmed.

The woman, who requested anonymity due to safety concerns, said she is angry about what happened, and still in a state of shock.

“For the last couple of weeks it’s just been very overwhelming,” she said.

She was not aware of the dangerousness of the situation when her teenage daughter, a junior at Keenan High School who had just gone to prom, called her.

Her daughter said she was uncomfortable at the gathering.

Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott has described it as an “after-prom flash party.”

The woman, along with her 7-year-old daughter, then drove to the park.

When she arrived, several people started firing shots around her.

“All I hear is pop, pop, pop, pop, pop, pop, from the right of me and in front of me, possibly behind me,” she said. “I didn’t see any faces or anything like that. Didn’t even realize how much danger I was in until I got back home because I really thought it was just kids playing, maybe just trying to scare people with the firecrackers or something.”

When she returned to her house, she realized the true extent of what she had just experienced.

“I think had I realized the severity of it, then I probably would’ve reacted differently,” she said. “But all the anxiety that came from it more so afterward when I saw that we actually were in the middle of flying bullets.”

In the midst of the chaos, one bullet hit the front hood of her car, traveled upward, and stopped just short of her windshield.

It is still stuck there, serving as a constant reminder of the trauma she experienced that night.

Whenever she gets in the front seat of her car, with the bullet hole visible, she said she thanks God.

“If I forget to pray, I remember as soon as I get in the car because God is what kept us safe that night,” she said.

Another bullet struck the right side of her car.

The woman said she teaches her children the dangers of the world but never could have imagined something like this.

“I’m so glad my daughter had enough common sense to call me and tell me because things could’ve been a lot worse than what they were,” she said.

Her teenage daughter is still in shock and has not quite processed her emotions about the situation, the woman said.

One of her friends is among the nine people who were shot, she said.

The woman’s younger daughter, though, does not want to go anywhere and is traumatized. Immediately after this happened, she wanted to stay home from school.

The past 10 days have been difficult for the mother as well.

“You’re nervous and anxious that it might happen again, you’re kind of looking out everywhere around you,” she said. “Every little noise scares you. You hear somebody outside, you want to peek out the window, make sure you’re okay. And every time we pass that park, because we pass by it every day, it’s something that you start feeling dread, a sense of overwhelming dread.”

The woman said she and her daughters will likely not come back to the park anytime soon.

They do not think they will be going to any parties in the near future, either.

The woman also is asking teenagers in the community to put down their guns.

She said she feels blessed to be able to share her story and wants other parents to learn from her pain.

“Just keep your kids and your family close,” she said. “It was a blessing that we didn’t get caught up even more than we already have, but again we have to be vigilant. Understand what our kids are capable of doing, even when it’s hard to accept that about our children. It’s up to us to make a difference in their lives so they can make a difference in everybody else’s lives on a positive note.”

The Richland County Sheriff’s Department’s investigation into the shooting is ongoing.

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