Following lead, CPD arrest suspect in string of shootings

Eleven gunshot incidents in the past 27 days have occurred in Columbia.
Columbia police are investigating a string of 11 shootings that have occurred in the past month. The most recent shooting took place Sunday evening at Chuck E. Cheese's Restaurant.

Police arrested a major player in the 11 gunshot incidences that have occurred in Columbia in the past 27 days.

The male suspect, who is between 16 and mid-20s in age, was arrested after officers followed up on a lead. He is being held on a $25,000 bond.

"Hopefully I don't have egg in my face in the morning if it turns out to be a dead end, but I don't think that's the case," Columbia Police Department Chief Ken Burton said. "The person we have in custody is somebody that we thought was involved from the beginning."

A juvenile, who police suspect is involved in the incidents, is being held at the Division of Youth Services, Missouri's juvenile corrections agency.

This is the highest concentration of shots fired in Columbia since the '90s, Burton said at a news conference Monday. At least seven of these incidences are most likely connected and are most likely gang-related activities.

"I'm not naive," Burton said. "I think all 11 are connected. We just haven't been able to do that with physical evidence."

CPD Capt. Brian Richenberger added he is not at liberty to discuss specific names, but certain names have appeared in multiple shootings.

The Columbia Police Department has received little help from victims and witnesses.

"Anybody who knows what is going on and is holding it in is doing a huge disservice to the people they know and love," Mayor Bob McDavid said in a City Council meeting. "If they want to protect those people they need to intervene right now and help them before they're in jail for a very long time."

CPD said it has had difficulty tracking the shootings since they have occurred at all different times of the day and in different locations.

"Based on things, like descriptions of vehicles, we had a lot of ‘maybes’ out there," Burton said.

Burton said a special operation is being put together to focus on this issue.

"You don't know where it's going to happen or when it's going to happen, so it's like looking for a needle in a haystack," he said. "One of the things we're trying to do is put some proactive patrols out there that are concentrating on just this issue."

Burton said though there has only been one minor injury so far, he is worried this pattern could lead to deaths.

"If you search the Internet for similar problems across the country, it does not take you long to realize that rarely is the intended target the one who pays the price," he said. "It's usually the mother or son or grandmother, or someone who knows no more than they see on the evening news."

This weekend, CPD responded to four cases of shots fired, including one Friday afternoon on Banks Avenue and Worley Street where shots were directed at someone sitting in a car. Later that day, shots were fired from a vehicle near Providence Road and Austin Avenue.

Officers also responded to an exchange of gunfire Saturday evening in the parking lot of Southside Pizza & Pub, damaging a building.

The most recent incident occurred Sunday at about 6:48 p.m. when officers responded to shots fired at the Chuck E. Cheese's at 2003 W. Worley St.

According to a news release, a male in the lobbies of the businesses was the target of these shootings. The man was seen in the lobby on surveillance tape ducking and running while shots were fired. The Forensic Evidence Team recovered rounds from inside the restaurant and the street. No injuries were reported.

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