Opinion: Well-Coordinated Interagency Cooperation On Display in Recent Shootings

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Most of the Columbiana Mall property is located in Lexington County, but portions also are in Richland County. Straddling two jurisdictions, residents might think that law enforcement responsibilities would be piecemeal, akin to a no man’s land when trouble erupts. 

Trouble erupted dramatically April 16 when three people turned an ongoing dispute into a gunfight in the middle of the indoor mall, resulting in 15 injuries, nine by direct gunshots and the rest in the surge of shoppers fleeing the shooting.

But instead of unclear law enforcement agency responsibility and response, the opposite happened, with law enforcement agencies from across the area responding in a “all-hands-on-deck” show of force and protection. 

Columbia Police, who had jurisdiction, were joined by many others: the Richland County Sheriff’s Department; Lexington County Sheriff’s Department; Newberry County Sheriff’s Office; the state Law Enforcement Division, state Highway Patrol; state Probation, Parole and Pardon Services; Irmo Police Department; the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; U.S. Marshal Service; and even the FBI.

The response was immediate and overwhelming from a coordinated variety of our local law enforcement agencies.    

Then, the very next weekend, in the early hours of April 24, another tragic shooting happened, when Cayce Police Officer Drew Barr was gunned down responding to a domestic dispute. Barr was tracked by a rifle and shot from an upstairs window in the front yard of the home. The suspect then held his wife and child hostage in a closet for seven hours before taking his own life.

Hostage negotiators from the Columbia Police Department responded to help and ultimately gained release of the two hostages after extended negotiations. Lexington County sheriff’s deputies and SLED officers set up a perimeter around the area and prepared a tactical team.

Days after the shooting, while Cayce police and city employees mourned and prepared for Barr’s funeral, West Columbia police performed patrol duty in Cayce.

Lexington County’s many municipalities with police forces, the county sheriff’s department, SLED and neighboring forces in Richland County might offer the opportunity for certain law violations to fall through the cracks between jurisdictions, or for smaller forces to not have adequate manpower to handle a given need.

But instead, as these April shooting incidents showed, Lexington County residents are well-served by coordinated responses between dedicated and capable agencies working seamlessly together. 

We should all be thankful and proud.

This article is the opinion of the Chronicle editorial board. To comment, email opinion@lexingtonchronicle.com.

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