Woman with CWP may have prevented further violence in funeral incident

Published: Jul. 21, 2017 at 4:45 PM EDT|Updated: Jul. 21, 2017 at 7:53 PM EDT
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When Columbia police arrived at the scene of a shocking attack on mourners at a graveside funeral, they found one of the mourners had taken steps to prevent more violence.

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - James Kester, 64, has been charged with 12 counts of attempted murder, accused of deliberately driving his car into a crowd of people at Greenlawn Memorial Park Wednesday afternoon.

Sources familiar with the incident say one of the mourners, a woman who has a concealed weapons permit, went to get her gun and had it with her after Kester’s car stopped moving.

RELATED: See more photos from the scene.

Witnesses say prior to that, Kester appeared to be trying to turn the car around or back up for a second run into the crowd.

A CPD spokeswoman says it is not clear whether Kester was aware the woman had a weapon. Spokeswoman Jennifer Timmons says the mourner’s CWP was valid.  

Police say Kester carried out the attack because he had a longstanding grudge against the South Carolina Department of Mental Health, which he said had prevented him from seeing his daughter following her treatment.

The funeral was being held for a former DMH employee, Margaret Livingston.

Investigators say Kester did not know Livingston or her family, but information about her work background had been included in her published obituary.

A number of current or former DMH employees had been attending the funeral.

Kester is being held on a $5 million bond.

A fundraiser has been established for the victims of this incident. If you wish to contribute, click here.

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