By Robert Kittle
The University of South Carolina is taking some new safety steps to better protect students after 18-year-old freshman Martha Childress was hit by a stray bullet on October 13th. She and a friend had dinner in the Five Points area near campus and were waiting for a cab to go home when a stray bullet hit her. She's now paralyzed from the waist down. She's from Greenville and is a graduate of J.L. Mann High.
The cab she was waiting for was already a USC safety program, offering free rides to students from the restaurants and bars in Five Points. But the wait for a cab can be pretty long. Childress' family says she had been waiting at least 30 minutes when she was shot.
The new shuttle buses will run from 9:30 at night until 3:30 in the morning on Fridays and Saturdays. Since they hold so many more students than cabs do, the wait time should be much less.
USC senior Matt Avellino says, "I think going to Five Points has been a risk every night of the week, ever since I've been there, since a freshman. I think the shuttle's a good thing to put in place, especially with incoming students."
Fellow senior Mike Waga says, "I'm kind of worried about it, but I really don't go down to Five Points. I go down to the Vista now because it's safer and less crime over there."
Besides the shuttles, USC is adding lighting and more emergency call boxes between campus and Five Points.
Martha Childress is now at the Shepherd Center in Atlanta, a well-known spinal injury rehabilitation facility.
Just minutes after the shooting, police arrested Michael Juan Smith, who's either 20 or 21 years old, because he has two birthdates in official records. Police say he had gotten into a confrontation with three other men and fired two shots at them. He didn't hit them, but one of those bullets hit Childress.
He remains in jail and is being held without bond. He's a convicted felon, so in addition to being charged with the shooting he's also charged with being a convicted felon in possession of a gun.