(Columbia) Aug. 27, 2004 - A 12-year-old girl and a 16-year-old boy from Columbia both died Friday morning after a Thursday night shooting, and Columbia Police have arrested a man the chief says they "believe to be the actual shooter."
Richland County Coroner Gary Watts says 16-year-old Terrence Merchant and 12-year-old Courtney Dixon both died of gunshot wounds after emergency surgery at Palmetto Richland County Memorial Hospital.
Columbia Police Chief Dean Crisp says they were shot Thursday night around 9:45 in the 100 block of TS Martin Drive.
CPD says four or five people were walking on TS Martin Drive when one of them began firing a handgun in the direction of the victims. Chief Crisp would not say if the shooting was gang-related and said investigators are working to determine a motive, "Right now indications are that they were not specifically targeted."
Officers responding to the scene arrested a suspect nearby on Calk Street. Chris Anthony Liverman, 19, is charged with two counts of murder.
Abby Gantt says her friend Terrence Merchant came by Thursday night with homework, "He was bringing me my project paper, cause me and him were going to type it up. We had a project that was due today. We were going to type it up last night."
Jovana Gantt says he stopped to talk to Courtney Dixon at her house, "They were friends. We were all best friends. We just liked to sit on our porch and talk."
Crisp says officers know Liverman as an admitted gang member and he says they don't know if he was trying to shoot Merchant and Dixon or someone else, "We have reports earlier in the evening he was actually looking for a person in the neighborhood." Police don't believe Terrence or Courtney knew Liverman.
Investigators are also trying to find the other people who came to the neighborhood with Liverman.
Crisp wants neighbors to feel safe, "We believe this is an isolated incident from an individual who took it upon himself to act extremely violently and senselessly to take the life of 2 individuals."
Liverman is being held at Richland County's Alvin S. Glenn Detention Center pending a bond hearing at a later date.
CPD asks anyone with information to call at 545-3500.
Columbia Police held a neighborhood meeting at W.A. Perry Middle School on Friday evening. Courtney Dixon attended the school. Concerned community members and city officials came together to listen and offer solutions about violence. The chief of police, Mayor Coble and city council members were all in attendance.
Alisa Corbin says the meeting is long overdue and changes are desperately needed to better protect her 12-year-old daughter, "We need security everyday watching the communities."
Bridgette Taylor and her daughter do not live in the TS Martin community, but she says safety of children everywhere should be a priority, "It's hurtful, because these are our kids. No matter what color they are, it's sad hurtful."
After the meeting, News 10 spoke with the Columbia Housing Authority and they say the fatal shootings has prompted them to increase security patrols in the neighborhood. We're told residents can expect to see the added security immediately..