Newberry County, SC (WLTX) - Newberry County law enforcement says one of the suspects charged in connection with the shooting in Columbia's Vista is well known to them, and has caused problems up there for years.
John Bates Jr., 28, is facing seven counts of attempted murder for the shooting at 2:15 Saturday morning that wounded eight people, leaving some in critical condition.
Previous Coverage: Warrants Reveal New Details About Vista Shooting
Columbia Police Chief Skip Holbrook says Bates was involved in a fight near the Empire Supper Club on Park Street that ended in a gun battle. According to arrest warrants,Bates Jr. drove past the club in a Ford Mustang, rolled down the windows, and fired multiple shots into a crowd leaving the club. One of those injured was 22-year-old Maleik Houseal, who is another suspect in this case.
Newberry County Sheriff Lee Foster says Bates has been arrested multiple times by law enforcement in his county over the years.
"They're terrorizing neighborhoods, they're terrorizing people to where they don't want to cooperate with law enforcement, so it makes our job protecting them more difficult," said Newberry County Sheriff Lee Foster. "And you gotta understand, we've got to go by the law. We can't just say 'we suppose they're doing' and get it done. We've got to have witnesses, we've got to have forensic evidence so it's difficult for law enforcement. I'm not making excuses for us--I'm just stating facts."
A criminal history check from the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division shows Bates has been arrested multiple times since 2006 on charges including assault and battery with intent to kill and attempted murder. However, most of those cases ended with no convictions, or the charges being dropped.
Eighth Circuit Solicitor David Stumbo, who has jurisdiction over Newberry County, issued the following statement.
"The charges against John Earl Bates Jr. were handled by the former administration. It appears, based on a review of the record, that the prosecutor who handled the case at the time, made the decision to enter into a plea agreement based on the facts presented during the case."