The Daily Gamecock

While you were away: Series of armed robberies, kidnappings plague student housing in July

<p>Stadium Suites, Columbia.</p>
Stadium Suites, Columbia.

A string of armed robberies and kidnappings along Bluff and Shop roads put the USC community into a stir in July.

Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott announced July 27 that two suspects were in custody for the armed incidents, with a third suspect being arrested the following day.

Lott's announcement came only days after rumors of students being abducted from outside their homes began to circulate on social media. Police reports of two incidents did not name any suspects, and Lott only eventually named one of the three in custody as two were juveniles.

Lott said that the suspects in custody on July 27, 17-year-old Raquan Green and a 15-year-old juvenile, were involved in a total of seven armed incidents over the preceding four weeks. The suspects began by robbing and assaulting food delivery drivers but eventually escalated to kidnappings.

According to Lott, Green has a previous criminal record, but the July incidents do not show a connection to gang activity.

Lott said an investigation is still ongoing and that the Richland County Sheriff’s Department has obtained a significant amount of evidence from vehicles involved in the incidents and eyewitness accounts. Lott also complimented the victims, who he said helped the investigation “tremendously.”

“This was a crime spree,” Lott said. “[The suspects] would not have stopped. The only thing that would have stopped them was them being arrested, and we were able to do that.”

The series of crimes began July 3 with the armed robbery of a China Wing Basket delivery driver, according to RCSD. Three more drivers were similarly robbed between July 15 and 19. Two of those incidents took place in the vicinity of The Southern @ 1051 and The Village at Columbia, a pair of adjacent student housing complexes between Bluff and Shop roads.

The suspects were involved in two separate kidnappings at Stadium Suites in the early morning hours of July 25, one at 1:30 a.m. and one at 2 a.m. The first incident involved a single female victim and did not include a robbery, but the second involved the carjacking and robbery of two victims.

According to a Richland County Sheriff’s Department report, the victims of the second kidnapping were moving to Stadium Suites from The Retreat at around 2 a.m. on July 25 when “three black male subjects” approached them. Two of the subjects were armed with handguns, the report says. The subjects told the students to drive them to the Shell gas station on at the corner of Bluff Road and S. Beltline Blvd. in a Kia belonging to one of the students. At the gas station, the students withdrew an unknown amount of money from the ATM.

After this, the report says, the subjects took the students to an area somewhere off Zion Avenue, where they took a television and an XBOX 360 from the car. The subjects took the students back to Stadium Suites, where they picked up a Jeep belonging to the second student.

They drove to an area near Jim Hamilton Airfield. The subjects told the students to remove their clothes, then left in the students’ cars, leaving their clothes behind, the report says.

One of the students said that at one point a subject “asked him if he knew about ‘Russian Roulette’,” placed a gun to his chest and pulled the trigger, but “with no discharge,” according to the report.

The students reported to police that the subjects appeared to be between 14 and 25; one was clearly shorter and younger, another was in his late teens, and one subject claimed to be 25. In addition to the TV and XBOX 360, the subjects took video games, controllers, golf clubs, several pairs of shoes and the students’ phones.

According to a separate report, police later found the students’ cars off Sands Street.

The final incident occurred less than 24 hours later. In the early morning hours of July 26, Midlands Tech and former USC student Jordan Dinsmore took to a friend’s Facebook account to announce that she had been abducted at gunpoint outside her apartment at The Village at Columbia, a student apartment complex on Southern Drive. A report released by Richland County Sheriff’s Department Thursday morning corroborated Dinsmore’s account of the incident.

<p>The Village at Columbia.</p>
The Village at Columbia.

According to the report, Dinsmore arrived at her apartment around 1:15 a.m. on July 26 after work. After parking and leaving her vehicle, the report says, “3 black males in their teens” confronted her and placed a gun to her head. After surrendering her phone and PIN number, her assailants forced her to drive to the Shell gas station at South Beltline Drive and Bluff Road, about half a mile away.

The report says Dinsmore was forced to drive as her car uses a manual transmission, which none of the suspects knew how to drive.

After arriving at the gas station, Dinsmore withdrew $300 from an ATM and gave it to the suspects. She was then forced to drive back to Bluff Road and was told by one suspect that she would be taken to a house where she would be forced to have sex.

Shortly after, Dinsmore was told to turn right on Blair Road. She missed the turn on purpose, leapt from the car and fled. A passing driver noticed her and drove her to Love’s gas station on Bluff Road, just short of the exit for Interstate 77. There, Dinsmore was given a ride back to her apartment by police and met with an investigator.

Dinsmore’s vehicle was found empty near Blair Road. Richland County Sheriff’s Department K-9 teams arrived on scene, but were unable to find any of the suspects at the time.

Lott said at the July 27 press conference that the suspects had a racial motivation to their crimes, seeking out white victims and even apologizing to an African American woman they abducted.

When asked why students in the apartment complexes that line Bluff Road were not warned of an area crime spree, Lott said that RCSD had not yet connected all of the incidents.

“I know that it’s kind of been blown up that they’re focusing on student housing,” Lott said. “That wasn’t it. They started doing something else.”

The July 3 and July 17 incidents took place at private residences on Aster Circle and Bentley Court, respectively.

Lott eventually surrendered his podium to Dinsmore, who told her story before a full room of reporters. While recounting the incident, Dinsmore became choked up when she cited her mother, a near-victim of sexual assault, as a reason why she refused to stop fighting for her life.

“I thought, you know, ‘I’m gonna be strong like my mom and I’m gonna get myself out of this,’” Dinsmore said.  

Despite having been threatened with a gun and jumping from her car as it was traveling (by her estimate) 35 mph, Dinsmore survived the incident with only “bruises and scratches.” 

“That’s the best I could’ve asked for jumping out of a moving vehicle,” Dinsmore said.

Dinsmore said she hopes her story will convince student housing complexes to use text alerts, as they do now for special events or water maintenance emergency, to warn residents of possible criminal presence.

“I know I can’t ask for everything and I know that it’s very hard to get those things put together, but I hope that in the future they start moving towards to that,” Dinsmore said.

The Village at Columbia announced increased security patrols, included the addition of a second residential police officer to their community, on July 28.

At the time of the statement, one Richland County police officer already lived in The Village and conducted nightly foot patrols. The community has 24-7 “professional management plus a security patrol service,” the statement said.

The management team also said they “are cooperating fully with law enforcement in connection with the recent reported incident,” referring to the kidnapping and robbery of Jordan Dinsmore on July 26. The Village management is “grateful to have learned of the recent arrests of two individuals in connection with this incident and other local incidents.” The statement says they are working with Dinsmore and the existing security to increase safety and prevent further incidents in their community.

“Definitely utilize the security measures that you’re given — the security staff and all that kind of stuff,” Dinsmore said the day after her attack. “I mean, they have nothing better to do than walk you to your door at 2 a.m.”


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