Columbia shootings raise MU students’ fears

There were more homicides in September than in the rest of 2019 combined, and the trend has continued into October.

When 13-year-old Dajion Harris was shot and killed on Oct. 19, it was a story that had become all too familiar for many Columbia residents.

From the months of January to August, there had been four homicides involving firearms. Then, a string of shootings during September started when five people were shot and killed over a 10-day span. That number is equal to the total number of shooting deaths reported in the city in 2018.

Since those deadly 10 days, there have been at least four more deadly shootings in Columbia, including the death of Harris.

According to court documents obtained by KRCG, a woman was approached by a friend of Harris who told her that he believed he had shot and killed someone. The woman said he admitted to her that he and Harris were using drugs together and he was showing Harris his two guns. She recounted his story to the police.

“We were just playing with them and he said 'Hey shoot me, man' and I just did," the woman recalled the shooter saying, according to KRCG.

The alleged shooter was arrested and initially charged with involuntary manslaughter. The charge has since been upgraded to second-degree murder.

The shootings have caught the attention of many MU students. Lifelong Columbia resident and MU freshman Will Travis said he has never seen anything like this.

“I usually see Columbia as a very peaceful town,” Travis said. “I think this violence deserves even more attention than it is getting.”

While he has been shocked by the violence, he has never felt unsafe on MU’s campus or in the surrounding area.

“I still feel safe on campus because most of the shootings happen in areas of town that are off campus,” Travis said.

Travis is right that most of the shootings occurred in the city’s northeast neighborhoods, but other students do not take as much comfort in that fact as he does.

Another Columbia resident and MU freshman, Luke Bouchard, said it can still lead to a sense of fear and panic in the city as a whole. Bouchard said that he got texts last week about a shooting downtown, even though police records confirm that there were none reported.

“It shouldn’t be happening, and it makes me slightly uncomfortable living in my own hometown,” Bouchard said.

Travis and Bouchard both said they hope the community can come together and make the necessary changes for the safety of everyone in the city and on campus.

“I haven’t heard of a time that was as bad as it is now,” Travis said.

In a press conference on Sept. 25, Columbia Mayor Brian Treece asked for help from the community in stopping the violence.

"Police cannot arrest their way out of this problem,” Treece said. “This is a community problem. Each and every one of us has a community responsibility to find ways to stop this cycle of violence, which continues to rob our community of our youth and their potential.”

In the same press conference, Columbia Police Chief Geoff Jones said his department is understaffed, and that with the spike in violent crime, many officers have been working significant overtime hours.

Jones also echoed Treece’s statements, calling to the community for help in these cases, specifically the killings of Antonio Houston and Danielle Marine. One month later, police are still asking for assistance from the public in finding the killers.

“Someone knows who committed these murders,” Jones said. “Those who committed these murders crossed the line and, for the safety and well-being of our community, must be held accountable.”

Treece said this is not an issue that is just focused on one neighborhood or one group of people.

"If we want to see a healthier Columbia, we need all Columbians to step up," Treece said.

Edited by Laura Evans | levans@themaneater.com

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