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Shootout erupts in Five Points soon after judge rules Columbia gun edicts break state law

Five Points shooting sneaker

A police investigator photographs an Air Jordan sneaker left in the middle of Greene Street after a shooting in Five Points on May 4, 2021 in Columbia. Sean Rayford/Special to The Post and Courier

COLUMBIA — Gun-control rules enacted by the city of Columbia violate state law and are invalid, a Richland County judge ruled May 4.

Minutes after the ruling became public, a gun fight was reported in Five Points around 4:20 p.m. with one man injured and bullet holes riddled in cars on Greene Street near Harden Street.

The injured man's wounds did not appear life-threatening, Columbia Police said. Officers were reviewing surveillance video to learn more about what happened. A red left Air Jordan sneaker was left in the middle of Greene Street in the aftermath.

It was not long after the punishing winds and pelting rain subsided that the sound of gunfire rang out across the street from Papa Jazz Record Shoppe.

Christopher Bickel, the vinyl record buyer at Papa Jazz, posted on Facebook that he heard a couple of pops outside the shop and assumed it was an electrical transformer exploding from the violent rain storm.

When Bickel looked out an upstairs window of the store, he said he saw two men firing guns. He estimated they shot 20 rounds at someone else he couldn't see before they fled.

"It was like watching a movie," Bickel told The Post and Courier. "Once I had processed what was happening, it still didn't really seem 'real.' "

Papa Jazz direct sales coordinator Alex McCollum said he told the other employee with him in the main room of the shop to get on the ground when he heard the gun fire. McCollum laid behind a heavy desk until he felt safe enough to go to the door and lock it, leaving his keys to dangle in the inside keyhole, before taking cover again.

At that time, he saw the two men leaving toward Andy's Deli and another that appeared to be hobbling away.

"I've never experienced anything like that," McCollum said. "We pride ourselves on being a safe corner of Five Points. It was really close to home today."

The gunfire took place while the Columbia City Council was meeting.

"The reality is we've got to do everything we can to keep guns out of the hands of folks that want to do harm to each other," Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin said after the city council received an update on the shootout during a meeting May 4.

The city plans to appeal the court ruling that halts three of its gun-control ordinances. Benjamin, an attorney, renewed his pledge to argue the case himself before the state Supreme Court. 

The order issued May 4 by Judge Jocelyn Newman sided with S.C. Attorney General Alan Wilson, whose office sued the city after council passed various gun-control rules.

The ordinances included barring the possession of firearms within 1,000 feet of a school, added "ghost guns" to city nuisance laws, and allowed police to confiscate guns from people who have extreme risk protection orders against them — commonly known as a "red flag" law.

Wilson argued the city rules violated state law that bars local governments from passing stricter gun rules than the state. He said the ordinances crossed a line preventing local governments from confiscating firearms unless during an arrest and enacting regulations on the transfer, ownership and possession of guns.

Newman agreed in her order, a huge win for Wilson.

"State law means just that — the law of the entire state," Wilson said. "Therefore, the remedy for the city is to convince the Legislature to change the law, not to disregard it. This ruling now provides clear guidance to all local governments on future matters of gun regulation."

Benjamin said the ordinances are "lawful and constitutional."

"I find it somewhat offensive and insulting that the people of Columbia were not offered the opportunity to make its case in court," he said. "We don’t need more access to guns for wrongdoers in South Carolina. We need less."

Columbia City Councilman Daniel Rickenmann, one of three announced candidates running to succeed Benjamin as mayor, agreed with the current mayor.

"It is kind of disappointing once again that the judicial system is really affecting our need to protect our citizens," he said. "We were in the right."

Reach Stephen Fastenau at 803-365-3235. Follow him on Twitter @StephenFastenau.

Columbia reporter

Stephen Fastenau is a local government reporter covering the City of Columbia, Richland County and general assignments. He returned to Columbia after 10 years as a reporter at The Island Packet and is a University of South Carolina graduate.

Jessica Holdman is a business reporter for The Post & Courier covering Columbia. Prior to moving to South Carolina, she reported on business in North Dakota for The Bismarck Tribune and has previously written for The Spokesman-Review in Spokane, Wash.

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