A passenger in a white Cadillac fired several shots near Fourth and Grand avenues on Wednesday night as children played nearby.
Police believe the incident is connected to a similar shooting that occurred two and a half hours earlier at Allen Street and LaSalle Place. Although children were in the area of both incidents, police said the children were not the targets in either case.
“We are of the opinion that the same group of shooters is responsible,” Columbia police Capt. Brad Nelson said on Thursday.
Children playing at Ridgeway Elementary School witnessed a driver and one passenger in an older model white Cadillac with temporary paper tags in the rear window, Columbia Police Sgt. John White said. Neither the driver nor the passenger could be described, but police said the passenger fired shots toward an unknown victim. Police have gathered information about possible targets, but they don’t know anything for sure, White said. He said the total number of people in the car is also unknown.
The children were from the neighborhood, and police have talked to several witnesses. White said the witnesses had no suspect information because they heard shots and ran. Police do have a suspect description from the incident at Allen Street. Witnesses in that incident described the gunman as a 6-foot male in his late teens or early 20s.
The intersection of Fourth and Grand avenues is one block away from Ridgeway Elementary School. The school’s playground and fields back up to one of the intersection’s corners. Ridgeway Principal Susan Fales said the children involved in Adventure Club, the school’s after-school program, had come inside before the shooting. The program ends daily at 6 p.m., so all of the children had left.
Fales said that when the children are outside, they are always supervised by adults. The playground is fenced in with three gates, but the children need permission to use the gates. Fales said the school only keeps one entrance unlocked, the front door, which is visible from the office.
Ridgeway Community Daycare, 21 Fourth Ave., sits on the opposite corner of the intersection from the school’s playground. Day care worker Jamie Hetherington said they didn’t know anything about the incident. The day care closes at 5:30 p.m.
Fales is also a member of the neighborhood association for the area. She said the community is working with the beat captain from the Columbia Police Department to try and minimize abandoned housing and create a “helpful neighbor program.” Fales was surprised when she heard about the shooting.
“I hope that it was an isolated incident, and that we continue building a safe neighbor situation,” Fales said.