COLUMBIA, S.C. — The Meadowlake community in Columbia is still trying to process how nine people were shot and two others injured when gunfire erupted at a local park this weekend. As of Monday late afternoon, law enforcement hasn’t said who may have fired the shots.
You can see the tire marks in the ground at the park: a reminder of this weekend’s chaos after gunfire erupted in a group of people, including high school students, who had gathered at Meadowlake Park on Saturday morning a little after 1 a.m..
"It was horrifying. It sounded like I was in a war zone or there was a movie because I've heard a lot of gunfire," Meadowlake resident Karen Veal explains. "I never have heard that much gunfire...it was constant. It did not stop."
Veal lives in a neighborhood across the street from the park. Veal says she heard the gunshots early Saturday morning.
"I was traumatized. I was literally shaking. I had to call somebody and talk to them to calm down. I've never heard that much gunfire," Veal remembers. "It was like seven or eight cars flying down the street, and then they were still shooting at the same time those cars were driving."
Racing to get away from the scene, which is now peaceful. Practically back to normal, Blythewood resident Nola Thornton tells me.
"You know, I thought about whether I should come out here today but it's just like it always is peaceful and quiet," Thornton shares.
She visits the park to exercise, traveling from Blythewood regularly, but after she heard about this weekend’s shooting, Thornton says she was nervous to come out.
After walking along the track, though, Thornton tells me she feels alright, just like Shelby Morgan, who brought her son to play on the playground.
"Things happen, it just…it's uneasy knowing that they happen so close," Morgan explains. "So I really don't know how to feel. I just kind of keep my guard up."
While walking with her son, Morgan says she found a bullet casing. Before now, Morgan explains she’s never had an issue at the park or living nearby.
"For the most part, I feel safe for the most part because depending on the time of day that I come, but when I see stuff like a bullet casing, for instance, I do feel a little uneasy, but I just try to be a little more aware of my surrounding," Morgan shares.
Just like Meadowlake resident Leon Robinson.
"The neighborhood is fine," Robinson remarks. "It’s a real quiet neighborhood and I kind of like it."
Robinson says he has a no trespassing sign up and keeps his cars in the back, but says this recent event seems like more of a one time occurrence than a problem he’s worried with repeat.
"It’s a bunch of youngsters that don’t have anything to do and that’s crazy because you know what, I was once a youngster too, but you know I never did anything like that," Robinson says.
The park is managed by Richland County Recreation Commission. In a statement to News 19, Interim Executive Director Tameka Williams writes, "Our thoughts and prayers are with the families and friends of those injured in the horrific shooting that occurred early Saturday morning on April 29, 2023, at Meadowlake Park. Although this was not a park-sponsored gathering as the park was closed, we cannot begin to fathom the immeasurable amount of pain that our community is feeling. Community safety is a number one priority, and the Richland County Recreation Commission is cooperating with law enforcement in their comprehensive and thorough investigation."
The Commission is encouraging people with information to contact the Richland County Sheriff’s Department. As of 5 p.m. on Monday, the department tells News 19 it has no new information to provide.