Shooting death leaves questions, worried neighborhood

Monday, February 16, 2009 | 7:11 p.m. CST; updated 10:53 p.m. CST, Monday, February 16, 2009
The shooting victim was found in the parking lot behind Ballenger Liquor and C-Store, 2201 Ballenger Lane, early Monday morning.

COLUMBIA —Two people have been taken into custody in connection with the fatal shooting death of an 18-year-old male in northeast Columbia early Monday morning, Columbia police said Monday afternoon.

The shooting took place in the parking lot of Ballenger Liquor and C Store, which used to be a Casey's General Store — the site of the 1994 triple homicide that is considered the most brutal crime in Columbia's history.


At about 12:40 a.m. Monday, police found Ronald Cornell Brown with a gunshot wound to the upper leg in the side parking lot of the store after receiving multiple reports from neighbors of shots fired, Columbia police Capt. Stephen Monticelli said.

Two people suspected to have fired weapons during the fatal shooting are being held by police. But investigators are still looking for others who were possibly involved, Monticelli said.

Jackie Jennings, who has lived in the neighborhood for 19 years, said life in the northeast Columbia neighborhood had been fairly uneventful since the Casey’s murders in 1994.

He said the fatal shooting of Brown early Monday morning was upsetting.

“This was too close to home for me,” Jennings said.

“I woke up to several shots in the night that sounded like someone knocking on my door,” Jennings said. “By the time I walked outside, I only heard one more. I saw a dark green Jeep Cherokee creeping up and down the streets, and I normally don’t get scared, but that vehicle disturbed me.”

Jennings also said the vehicle paused in front of the scene for a minute before slowly driving around the block again. “I just hid behind the pole at my house while it drove by, then I went inside.”

Monticelli said a vehicle of the same description was found abandoned near Clark Lane and impounded by police. He confirmed the vehicle was connected to the shooting. He would not talk about what evidence was found in the vehicle.

Evidence found at the scene shows there were two different caliber casings, which means two different weapons were involved, Monticelli said, but the types of weapons fired are still unknown.

Monticelli said he was not able to discuss whether the victim exchanged fire with someone before he was shot.

Shontez Truss, who said he was a childhood friend of Brown, was surprised to find out that Brown was dead and said he was “a cool guy” and had always stayed out of trouble as far as he knew.

“He called me earlier around 10:30 p.m. and asked if I could give him a ride to the store later," Truss said, referring to Ballenger Liquor. "I couldn’t take him, but I really don’t know why he would need to go up there that late.” 

Orlando Collier, who said he was a good friend of Brown, said he walked by the scene around 2 a.m. and was shocked to learn of Brown's death.

“This is close to me not only because I knew him so well, but also because it is right near my house. Corey was a fun-loving, outgoing guy, and he will be missed," Collier said.

Mitzi Enlow, Collier’s mother and a frequent visitor to the area, teared up upon hearing the news. “I pray constantly for the children. The things we deal with as parents, especially in the times we live in today, it keeps me in constant prayer.”

Paula Schneider, a member of the Neighborhood Watch Association on McKee Street near the scene of the shooting, said there are always cars driving in and out of the neighborhood at night. "(The shooting) is sad, but I’m not surprised,” she said.

Schneider said crime seemed to be on the rise near where she lives. An analysis of data on the Missourian's Crime Watch Web site shows that the neighborhood, located in police beat 25, has had a consistent problem with property crimes since 2005, though there has been no significant trend in violent crimes.

“There are drug deals that go on at the park and houses broken into all the time. The police used to patrol this neighborhood regularly but have not been around recently,” Schneider said.

Monticelli said patrols had not stopped.

“They might not see officers as frequently as they would like to because they may be addressing other calls,” Monticelli said.

The investigation is ongoing, and Monticelli said investigators were interviewing several people with hopes to find out exactly who was involved.

Missourian reporter Megan Wiegand contributed to this report.

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