Mario Jerome Stokes, age 23, had stolen a vehicle, robbed businesses, and killed a restaurant owner before taking his own life.
The Richland County Sheriff’s Department says Stokes robbed a woman at gunpoint and stole her SUV. About an hour later he drove the stolen vehicle to a Family Dollar store on Garners Ferry Road in Columbia where he robbed and assaulted several employees. Ten minutes after that, he robbed the China Palace restaurant and drove to Dino’s on Decko, a restaurant where owner Mr. Steve Kim was killed during a robbery there.
Not long after that, Columbia police say they spotted the stolen SUV. Stokes eventually drove into a Walgreens parking lot on Garner’s Ferry Road, where he was ordered by police to exit the vehicle.
Instead, he shot himself in the head. Officials say the forensics lab was able to link the weapon that was used in the murder as the same one used in the robberies.
Police say Stokes had a lengthy criminal record that included armed robbery, kidnapping, drug possession, grand larceny and hit-and-run.