Richland County Sheriff’s deputies say they have arrested a suspected gang member in the fatal shooting last week of a Columbia man who was with his 3-year-old daughter at the time.
29-year-old Kevin Lewis has been charged with murder. Investigators are still looking for several others who they believe were involved in a brawl that preceded the shooting.
Sheriff Leon Lott said 25-year-old Howard Nemley was incorrectly reported at the time as being an innocent bystander when he was killed on July 24. However, Lott says investigators now believe Nemley was involved.
Lott said Nemley and Eric Salley observed two groups of juveniles arguing in the parking lot of the Deer Park Apartments and began provoking the two sides to fight each other. A mother of one of the teens then became involved. Deputies said she called Lewis, her boyfriend’s brother, and Lewis arrived minutes later with several other men. Lott said the newcomers beat Salley and shot Nemley twice. Deputies say Nemley’s daughter was by his side at the time.
“He wasn’t involved in the initial confrontation, but he was interjected into it,” Lott told reporters Thursday. “He was shot and it wasn’t an accidental shooting.”
Lott said the shooting shows that gang violence is a serious problem in Columbia. “There is a war now that’s going on. And it’s the Richland County Sheriff’s Department and it’s the community against the gangs. We’re not going to let the gangs win. We’re not going to let the gangs take over our community.”
Law enforcement officials say gang issues have been a serious problem for years in the Capital City region. David Thomas, the FBI Special Agent in Charge for the bureau’s Columbia Division, says this summer has been particularly violent.
“Over the last 12 months, the FBI’s indicted over 125 gang members across the Midlands,” he told South Carolina Radio Network. “We have numerous active investigations going on now. It does seem to be a continually growing problem that we’re addressing and putting a lot of resources into.”
The sheriff said Lewis is not cooperating with investigators. Deputies are still trying to identify another man who can be seen with Lewis in surveillance video taken at a nearby gas station only minutes before the shooting.
Matt Long and Ashley Byrd contributed to this report