The last thing downtown Augusta wanted to hear following the Fourth of July fireworks was gunfire ring out along the Riverwalk.
But that’s what happened.
According to the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office, two men apparently began arguing and both individuals pulled out guns and began firing next to the Unisys building at Seventh Street and Riverwalk.
One of the men, 30-year-old Clinton Lamont Coleman of Greene Street, was struck in the face during the shooting.
Two bystanders reportedly tackled Coleman to the ground as many locals attending the fireworks show ran for cover.
Deputies quickly arrived on the scene.
Many citizens were in shock after the incident, pledging to avoid downtown Augusta after dark, but others insisted the community needs to come together as one.
“People saying that they are never coming to Downtown Augusta again or moving to Columbia County is not the answer,” George Claussen IV, owner of Southbound Smokehouse, immediately posted on Facebook after the shooting at the Riverwalk. “We have to realize that bad things happen not only to Augusta but to every city…It’s awful! This is a mad world we live in and I’m not going to let some fool ruin all the work that has been put in or planned for Augusta! Downtown has come so far the last couple years and has along way to go but don’t let this stop you from supporting the future of our city!”
Not long after his Claussen’s post, Lt. Lewis Blanchard of the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office made an extremely frank comment of his own.
“Things such as this must always be kept into perspective. When you put 15,000 persons together, the chances greatly raise that a problem will occur regardless of where you are and anyone who is open and honest fully understands that,” Blanchard wrote. “People walk into churches, theaters, schools, etc. and commit acts of violence but we can’t simply stop living our lives. We should be vigilant, maintain situational awareness, etc. and of course we should take extra precautions regarding certain situations.”
In reality, a bad combination is alcohol at a large, public event, Blanchard wrote.
“People tend to act very differently in large crowds,” he wrote. “In this specific situation from the videos shown thus far and all it appears that two specific persons wanted to shoot at each other and frankly there is little that can be done to stop that when people are hell bent on committing an act of violence.”
But Blanchard assured the public that local law enforcement officers were immediately on the scene following the shooting.
“LEOs were on scene nearly instantly, running in as others were running out and did a great job of securing the scene and providing medical attention as well as in gathering evidence,” Blanchard wrote.
He asked the public not to fear attending family events in downtown Augusta.
“I was raised in Columbia County and it is a great county but I love Augusta as well,” Blanchard wrote. “You must use a good common sense approach and if you see a situation developing you should leave the area, not sit there watching or pulling out a camera but LEAVE and notify a nearby officer or call 911. Augusta has many great things going for it as a city and all of us can help to make it better if we choose to do so.”
Before ending his comment, Blanchard also addressed the nationwide problem of the lack of accountability among this country’s youth.
“Lastly, this country had better change this enabling society mentality where individuals simply are not held accountable for their actions in their homes, when they attend school and out in society,” he wrote. “The complete lack of respect I see daily for parents, teachers, police officers and all persons of authority is completely out of control and our national media is a negative contributing factor to this.”
Society’s attitudes have to change, Blanchard wrote.
“We have more than enough laws but when criminals are exiting the jails before law enforcement officers are finishing their paperwork, there is a problem,” he wrote. “The same applies when repeat felons are released quickly when illegally possessing a firearm only to go out and shoot or kill someone again because the ‘system’ doesn’t put them and keep them where they belong.”
Parents need to get serious about raising their children, he wrote.
“Lack of responsibility, accountability, parents that are non-existent or prefer to be a friend instead of a parent are all a large part of the problem and so is all of this BS political correctness,” Blanchard posted. “Persons don’t want to hear the truth about anything and many are afraid to say if because of various labels that may be attached to them if they speak up but we really need to come together and work to problem solve in an effort to make our community, state, and country better.”
But, again, Blanchard encouraged everyone to support downtown Augusta and its many family-friendly events.
“If you aren’t part of the solution, you are part of the problem,” he wrote. “Augusta, including Downtown Augusta has a lot of great activities, events, nightlife, etc. and for the CSRA if you are looking to have a great night out, you most likely will be coming to Augusta.”
Within just hours of the incident, Blanchard successfully vocalized the feelings of many in the community, while several other local leaders were still reeling from the shock of the night’s events.
If the Insider didn’t know any better, Blanchard seems to be preparing to run for another political office.
Who knows? He definitely has a solid platform and the money to back it up.
Regardless, Blanchard did an impressive job bringing the entire situation into perspective for many stunned residents.
The message: Act responsibly, support downtown Augusta, use common sense and teach your children to respect authority.
It’s that simple.