COLUMBIA — Columbia police were looking Monday into a possible link between a fight at a downtown bar and a shooting about an hour later in which three young men were wounded.
The three victims in the shooting downtown early Saturday were two 23-year-old men and a 19-year-old, according to a release from the Columbia Police Department.
The victims' names were being withheld for their own protection and because the investigation into the shooting was ongoing. Police also said there was no suspect information they could release.
"Until investigators know who was all involved, it is hard to say if the shooting was gang-related," Sgt. Joseph Bernhard said in the release.
Police were looking into whether an assault in front of the Blue Fugue, 120 S. Ninth St., approximately 45 minutes before the shooting might have been related.
Spencer Pearson, who was managing the Blue Fugue over the weekend, said there was a fight outside the club about 11:30 p.m. Friday. One man who had been attending a show there was outside the venue smoking a cigarette when three other men came out of an alley and "jumped him," Pearson said. The victim of the attack ran back into the venue, and the bouncer prevented the attackers from following him.
"I told him he couldn't stay in the bar if people were after him," Pearson said. "After that, he got in his car and left."
Pearson said police came to the Blue Fugue after closing to take witness statements about the incident. He also said it seemed there were larger, rowdier crowds than usual downtown Friday night.
Victoria Simmons, driver of the light-colored Nissan Altima seen in a video of the incident, was at the intersection of Tenth Street and Broadway when the shooting began. Simmons said she was leaving Roxy's Dance Club and Bar, 1025 E. Broadway, and had pulled her car out onto Tenth Street, stopping at the red light, when she noticed a large group of people converging on the intersection. Simmons said many of those in the street had distressed or angry facial expressions.
Simmons said the car in front of her, a dark-colored SUV, ran the red light and then chaos broke out.
She heard two to three gunshots before she realized what was going on. "I couldn't drive away because people were running in the street, ducking in front of my car," she said. "I almost ran someone over. That was the scariest part."
Simmons said it sounded like the shooter was behind her car and to the right, which matches with the trajectory of a stray bullet that hit her rear, passenger-side door. Simmons also said the shooting seemed to be belligerent but random, rather than directed at any specific pedestrians. She said she believes the altercation may have started as a fistfight but escalated when someone drew a gun.
Simmons, a Columbia native, said the incident has made her feel uncomfortable about being out by herself at night.
"I've always felt safe walking by myself downtown in the middle of the night," Simmons said. "It's messed up."
Police Capt. Jill Schlude said in an email that the downtown unit had not been on patrol this past weekend. Schlude said the unit is typically given one weekend off each month but that can be postponed in the case of special weekend events which require police presence. The downtown unit had worked six weekends in a row.
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