How did one of the Vista shooting suspects remain free despite probation violation prior to the shootout?

Published: Sep. 19, 2017 at 5:09 PM EDT|Updated: Sep. 19, 2017 at 10:40 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - State officials say a key suspect in the shootout that left eight people injured in Columbia's Vista could have been jailed shortly before the incident for violating his probation.

John Earl Bates, Jr. is facing seven counts of attempted murder and other charges in connection with Saturday's gunfire near the Empire Supper Club on Lady Street.

On Friday, Bates was in court because state Probation, Parole and Pardon Services officers said he had failed to pay fees for supervision and drug testing, failed to report to and follow the advice of his agent and had not reported a conviction in May for an unknown offense in a Newberry magistrate court.

The 28-year-old was serving probation after pleading guilty in March 2016 to second-degree assault and battery in Saluda County.

In that case, the judge sentenced Bates to three years in prison but suspended the sentence to five years probation.

Bates entered the plea after originally being charged with attempted murder and a weapons violation.

On Friday, Circuit Court Judge Donald Hocker allowed Bates to remain on probation but warned Bates against any more violations. He was granted that probation after sources say executives from Bates' record company asked the judge to allow Bates to remain free, promising that they would make sure he would not get into trouble again.

Bates fashions himself a hip-hop artist by the name of "Hun Dunn." Bates is signed to the Five Star Empire label, which bills itself as the "first major independent record label in the Carolinas." The company says Five Star is "where dreams come true."

But the nightmare in the Vista still rings days later -- all sparked due to a music industry-related rivalry, according to Richland County Sheriff' Leon Lott.

Bates remains in jail on the charges stemming from the Vista shooting.

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