COLUMBIA, S.C. — Richland Sheriff Leon Lott and Columbia Chief Skip Holbrook announced the arrest of suspects who they say went on a one-night crime spree in Columbia, burglarizing multiple stores.
The two spoke Friday afternoon at a news conference. Lott said several of the suspects had attended a protest in downtown Columbia a day earlier that had turned violent. Lott said an ankle monitor tied some of the suspects to both events.
But Lott said these were not protesters or people who attended to call for justice. "Protests are being hijacked by some who are doing nothing but going out and stealing property and hurting people," Lott said. "They're common criminals."
Lott said around 11 p.m. on May 31, a group of 28 people stood outside Green's liquor store on Assembly Street. Some of them broke the glass to the store and went inside, stealing $5,700 in alcohol.
Police say around 2:48 a.m., more than a dozen people from the same group broke into the Rodney’s Rockets on Clemson Road and stole an estimated $1,000 worth of fireworks.
Around 3:09 a.m., more than a dozen people broke into an Express Alterations & Dry Cleaners on Sparkleberry Lane Extension through the back door and stole about $150 from the cash register. Officers say around 3:28 a.m., more than a dozen people broke into Andrew’s Jewelry on Two Notch through the front door, causing more than $10,000 worth of damage to the store.
After the jewelry store burglary, officers say they spotted a vehicle acting erratically near the Sandhills area. Eventually the vehicle crash on Faraway Drive.
That ultimately led to the arrest of three suspects.
Lott and Holbrook announced multiple arrests since the protest that took place on Saturday, May 30 in downtown Columbia. The protest began peacefully, but there were pockets of violence, leading to a confrontation near Columbia Police Headquarters between a small group of the protesters and law enforcement.
Several protesters and officers were injured. There was also vandalism, including several storefronts in Columbia's Vista and the burning of two Columbia police cars.
Dozens of arrests were made the day of the protest and a few on the day after. Since then, a handful of other arrests have been made of what Lott describes as "agitators" who he felt increased the danger of the situation.
At least one lawsuit has been against law enforcement by a protester, who claims he was hit by rubber bullets during the protest even though he was peaceful.
Since then, the protests in Columbia have been peaceful and there has been no violence.