Jimmy Brannon and Denise Massey of Central Kentucky were enjoying a trip to Columbia, S.C., to see the University of Kentucky football game when shots rang out early Saturday morning, leaving her critically injured.
The Columbia Police Department said four men and four women were wounded in the shootings in the city’s Vista entertainment district. Police said the victims’ conditions ranged from stable to critical.
The State reported Saturday night that four people, all in their 20s, were arrested in connection with the shooting. Columbia Police Chief Skip Holbrook said multiple rounds of gunfire rang out shortly after 2:10 a.m. on Saturday outside the Empire Supper Club at 920 Lady Street.
It was not a random or drive-by shooting, Holbrook said.
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Charges were filed against John Bates, 28; Jarvis Tucker, 26; Keveas Gallman, 28 and Maleik Houseal, 22; according to a news release by the Columbia Police Department.
Bates is facing multiple charges, including seven counts of attempted murder.
Tucker is facing charges for accessory after the fact. Gallman faces one count of attempted murder and firearms-related charges.
Houseal, who also faces firearms-related charges, was injured in the shooting, according to the news release. He is still being treated at the hospital, the release stated.
In a telephone interview, Brannon said he and Massey had checked into a Columbia hotel about 9:15 p.m. Friday and decided to go eat at Pearl’s Oyster Bar.
“We then went to the Vista neighborhood and met the nicest people,” he said. “We were talking about politics and football and having a good time. It was a very nice place, you could have brought kids there.”
While walking outside to return to the hotel, Brannon said he took a photo of Massey sitting on a bench.
“It wasn’t two minutes later that we heard pop, pop, pop. For some reason ... I thought of the assassination attempt on President Reagan. Someone shouted, ‘Duck down’ and we did.
“Denise was a couple feet ahead of me. Then I saw her lying on the ground and all the blood. I didn’t think she was going to live.”
An ambulance rushed Massey to a hospital, but Brannon said the police would not let him go with her or tell him where she was going. “They could have had a better bedside manner,” he said.
Brannon said he later was told that the trauma victims were taken to Richland Hospital. “I found her there,” he said.
Brannon, a Paris lawyer, called for prayers for Massey on his Facebook page. Her Facebook page identified her as a warehouse worker at Amazon Fulfillment Center in Lexington and a Lexington resident.
“Denise is still in critical condition, her parents have been notified,” Brannon wrote on Facebook Saturday. “This morning doctors told me that she is very, very lucky to have a gunshot to the cheek area, shattering some bone and exiting the back of the neck without damage to the spinal cord.”
The two had planned to get up early Saturday morning to walk on the beach, he said. “In the last month or two, we have started dating seriously.
“We were packing three days into one or two,” he said. “We had our UK clothes all laid out for Saturday night’s game.”
Brannon said he was on the track team as a senior at Bourbon County High School when he met Massey, who was in the seventh grade.
“We’ve known each other for a long time. Our paths crossed again about seven years ago and I told her a few months ago that I had a lot of things to make up with her. She has to pull through this.”
Brannon said Massey was “incapable of a bad deed. You’ve heard the question why do bad things happen to good people. I’ve been thinking about that. Tell everyone prayers are appreciated.”
UK athletics director Mitch Barnhart and his wife, Connie, visited the couple Saturday afternoon in the hospital.
Barnhart’s visit to the hospital “meant a whole lot,” Brannon said. “He and his wife said a prayer with us. He said Coach (Mark) Stoops and the players, the whole UK community, were upset about this.”