Two teens shot at graduation party in Columbia park

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Published: May. 25, 2023 at 10:47 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Two teenagers are recovering after being shot at a graduation party in a Columbia park on Thursday night.

The shooting happened at St. Anna’s Park on Liberty Hill Avenue in downtown Columbia, which is near North Millwood Avenue and the former site of the Gonzales Gardens Housing Project.

A male and female were shot and were taken to the hospital. Both victims are 17 years old.

The girl was a W.J. Keenan High School student who had just graduated earlier in the day.

Columbia Police is investigating and looking for possible suspects.

The Columbia-Richland Fire Department was at the park on Friday morning, hosing down the crime scene.

This comes less than a month after a mass shooting at a post-prom flash party at Columbia’s Meadowlake Park injured more than 10 people, most of them teenagers.

Though these are distinctly different locations, they are experiencing the same issue, Columbia District 2 Councilman Ed McDowell said.

“It’s not just a council issue, it’s a city issue, it’s a parental issue,” he said. “It’s an individual and a collaborative issue. It’s about guns. C’mon, folk. It’s about guns. We’ve got too many darn guns in the city. We have too many guns, illegal guns where folk are able to randomly go into a place and shoot a pistol or a rifle.”

Some who live in the area have called for city leadership and Columbia Police to make the park less accessible after hours, possibly by locking up entrances.

McDowell, who lives in the neighborhood, said Columbia’s Parks and Recreation is currently assessing what changes could be made, and will then provide recommendations to Columbia Police Chief Skip Holbrook.

“A safe city is a city that continues to expand itself,” he said. “A dangerous city is a city that’s going to meander and not do anything. Our position is we want a safe city and a saved city.”

McDowell said the city is starting the “process of healing” by closing up a portion of the park that as recently as Thursday night was not fenced-in.

Robert Yates, who witnessed the chaos, said he was on the phone with a friend when he heard what initially sounded like fireworks.

He ran outside and saw a crowd of people tending to someone on the ground.

Yates said it is unnerving to have something like this happen so close to his home.

“It’s scary, you don’t want anybody else to get hurt,” he said. “Violence like this shouldn’t even happen.”

Police have asked witnesses to come forward.

Jamar Adeleye, a recent high school graduate who came to the park Friday to shoot hoops, said he normally feels safe at the park.

He advised anyone with information to speak up in furtherance of justice.

“I mean if I were them, I would try to speak up about it too,” Adeleye said. “I don’t feel like you should just hold something in, that’s something big. Somebody getting shot at a party, that’s how I feel.”

Richland County School District One Superintendent Dr. Craig Witherspoon said in a statement: “We were saddened to hear that one of our students who graduated yesterday from W.J. Keenan High School was shot last night. We will be praying for her speedy recovery.”

Richland One said the Keenan student who was shot is expected to be okay.

Additional details on the conditions of the victims were not available.

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