COLUMBIA — As Columbia police continue to investigate a fight at Douglass Park on Thursday night in which two men were stabbed, the department is looking to adjust its policies to prevent repeats of a separate disturbance later that night.
The two incidents prompted police to close the park early Thursday. Police Sgt. Ken Hammond, who leads the department’s Major Crimes Unit, said the incidents were unrelated. His unit is investigating the stabbing incident.
“Our investigation is at a very preliminary stage at this point,” Hammond said. “We’re just getting started.”
According to a news release, the department received a report that two people were fighting in the Douglass Park shelter and that a weapon might have been involved.
Officers arrived minutes later, according to the release, but only found fresh blood and a broken bottle in the shelter. Police said none of the people nearby was willing to discuss what happened.
After officers arrived, police received a call from a man at University Hospital. Hammond said the man was calling to report a crime, but he didn’t know what the man reported.
University Hospital reported that two men were being treated for stab wounds. Police think one man was stabbed multiple times in the back and abdomen. According to the release, he was undergoing treatment and could not be interviewed. The other man was thought to have been stabbed in the arms but declined to talk to police, according to the release. In an earlier report, Lt. Scott Young said none of the injuries was life-threatening.
As of 12:45 p.m. Friday, police had not been able to interview either man, Hammond said. He said he didn’t know if they were still at University Hospital and declined to name them, though he did say they were in their 30s. He said other individuals might have been involved in the incident.
He said police think the broken bottle found at the scene was one of the weapons used to stab the two men, but others might have been used as well.
About two hours after the fight Thursday night, police officers were called to disperse a large crowd that had gathered behind Douglass High School. Police said the disturbance, which involved 100 to 150 people, had started with a fight at the corner of Ninth and Walnut streets during Thursday’s Twilight Festival.
Young said police had heard a person in the crowd had a gun but officers didn’t see it as the crowd left the area.
Police closed the park as a precaution against further violence, according to the release.
Capt. Stephen Monticelli, who heads the department’s patrol division, said the department would adjust the way it manages pedestrian traffic after events downtown. He said the second incident occurred after groups of juveniles left the Twilight Festival and then met up in the park.
“Instead of going home or to their residences, they went to that park without any adult supervision,” he said. “That’s where issues arose.”
Monticelli said that in the future, pedestrians leaving a major event in a large group will likely be prohibited from cutting through the park. He said the area is already heavily patrolled and police don’t often resort to closing the park.
“That’s something that’s very rarely done, but it was needed last night,” Monticelli said.
The park opened as scheduled Friday morning. Gary Ristow, Columbia recreation services manager, said the park would continue to stay open from sunrise to 11 p.m. daily. He said the department was working with police and the park would be closed early again if needed.
“We’re looking at all options,” he said. “Obviously this type of behavior is not something we condone or will allow to continue.”