Sheriff names Bloods as Five Points gang

Lott: Group playing ‘knockout’ downtown after midnight

Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott on Wednesday said the national gang known as the Bloods had been operating in Five Points and that they had been playing “knockout” there.

Lott had previously only said a national gang was in the entertainment district, declining to say which one.

Speaking on campus Wednesday, Lott said the gang was looking to make a name for itself and began to frequent The Library.

He thinks safety in Five Points has improved in the last month, in part because of the focus on The Library, he said.

The bar no longer carries the name but still operates about a month after Lott called it out publicly and the state threatened to shut it down for not paying back taxes. The bar’s owner, Justin Kershner, has said he was not harboring gangs and had no way to identify their members; he did not immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday.

Gang members began playing the “knockout” game, Lott said, a phenomenon in which people supposedly try to knock strangers unconscious in one blow. “Knockout” has gained national media attention recently, but its prevalence has been refuted.

Interim Police Chief Ruben Santiago said the “knockout” phenomenon was a concern but that no such cases had been reported anywhere in the city.

Lott also pointed a finger at the Columbia Police Department, saying the city had ignored a gang problem in Five Points by focusing on underage drinking.

“Five Points has been a disaster for years,” Lott said. “Every gangster and every hoodlum in the Columbia area went to Five Points after 12 o’clock.”

Santiago wouldn’t discuss past police chiefs’ strategies, but he said he’s placed an emphasis on cracking down on gangs, not drinkers.

“That’s one of the things I’ve been harping on,” Santiago said. “I’ve been really trying not to scare people but reiterate the fact that we do have gangs and that we need not just the police but everyone to get involved and stop gang violence.”

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