COLUMBIA — An early morning robbery that left a 22-year-old Columbia man dead from a gunshot wound to the head jarred an otherwise secure neighborhood that was similarly shaken after a fatal drive-by shooting a little over a year ago.
Three suspects are being sought in connection with the robbery, Columbia police said.
Witnesses told police that the suspects entered the duplex and went from room to room demanding money and property, Columbia police Capt. Brad Nelson said. The suspects encountered Nathaniel Bentley, who lived in a duplex at 3610 Pimlico Drive, and “a struggle ensued,” he said. After residents reported that shots had been fired, police found Bentley at 12:52 a.m. in an upstairs bedroom of the three-bedroom duplex. He was later pronounced dead at a hospital. Five other people were inside the duplex at the time of the shooting, Nelson said.
He said the suspects fled the duplex after the shooting.
Karen Pojmann said she has lived on Pimlico Drive for about three years and said she thought the area was safe until the death of Tedarrian Robinson last year. In April of 2007, Robinson, 17, was killed in a drive-by shooting on Prescott Drive in the Bearfield neighborhood. Prescott Drive is one block north of Pimlico Drive and runs parallel to it.
“The tone of the neighborhood has changed,” she said. Since then, a slashed screen on her window and damage to her front door led her to believe someone had tried to break into her house, she said. Pojmann said a neighbor saw someone tampering with her window but nothing had been stolen.
Pojmann said she had been planning to move out of the neighborhood even before Tuesday’s homicide. She said her decision wasn’t a direct result of crime in the area.
“This certainly makes me feel better about the decision,” she said.
MU student Jenna Dennis, who has lived in the neighborhood for about three years, said it has a secure atmosphere. Dennis and her roommates said they will be moving out in a couple of months.
“Definitely the doors are going to be locked until then,” she said.
Bruce Davis, who rents out property on the street but has never lived there himself, said the two incidents weren’t indicative of the area’s atmosphere.
“This has been a very good neighborhood,” he said. “It’s a very bizarre incident.”
Penny Prigett, who lives on Prescott Drive, said she, too, thought that her neighborhood was safe, but now she’s not so sure.
“I’m afraid at night to go to sleep,” she said. “I know I’m not going to let my kids play outside for a while.”
In late May, an attempted armed robbery was reported at the intersection of Rock Quarry Road and Grindstone Parkway, about one mile west of Tuesday morning’s shooting. In that incident, a man approached a woman’s vehicle while she was stopped at a red light and demanded money. The woman drove off without incident.
On May 31, a 29-year-old man was shot in the mouth at the Petro Mart at 3300 Falling Leaf Lane. The shooting occurred about a mile east of Tuesday’s shooting and was not fatal.
No warrants had been issued for any suspects in connection with Tuesday’s robbery, Nelson said. The suspects do not appear to have known the victim, Nelson said. But, he said the crime wasn’t random.
“When the suspects entered, they knew where they were going and what they were after,” he said. There were no signs of forced entry, but the intruders were “clearly not invited in,” Nelson said.
The “drug connection is one we’ll look at,” but the motive appeared to be robbery, Nelson said.
Nelson said a purse and a billfold were taken during the robbery. Other items were also taken but Nelson said he is not ready to disclose those details.
Nelson said he didn’t know how many people lived in the duplex but Bentley’s roommates weren’t suspects. They were “very cooperative” with investigators, he said.
Police obtained a warrant and searched the duplex from 2 a.m. until 10 a.m. The doors and windows of the duplex remained taped shut as of Tuesday night.
Nelson said he was confident the crime would be solved.
“We certainly need media and public help in solving this homicide,” he said.
Anyone with information is asked to call CrimeStoppers at 875-TIPS or log on to 875tips.com.
Missourian reporter Chad Day contributed to this report.