As police investigate shots fired church members continue outreach

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COLUMBIA - Members of a Columbia church came together Saturday for a community outreach barbecue, as the Columbia Police Department investigated a shots fired call nearby.

Officers said they were patrolling an area north of downtown Columbia about 2:00 a.m. Saturday when they heard gunshots near Park Avenue and Fifth Street. Police said officers located shell casings, and were told a white SUV left the scene at a high rate of speed after the shots were fired.

Police said there were no injuries or property damage.

Members of the nearby St. Paul AME Church reacted to the incident late Saturday morning, as they gathered for an annual barbecue to raise money for their community outreach program. 

"Unfortunately it's kind of become common place," said St. Paul AME Rev. Mary Hull-Lovett. "It's not news to us to hear 'shots fired' in this neighborhood and surrounding close neighborhoods,"

Maymie Carter, a member of the outreach program, said, "I don't really know what's going on within the neighborhood. It's just that, I just keep myself in prayer and ask God to make a better place for us to live, a most peaceful place that we won't have to live in fear, we live in peace." 

"I think it's a circle, a circle of things that we have to break though to be able to get to a better place," Hull-Lovett said. "It used to be that, when there was a quarrel among young people or whatever, you know, there might be a fight, and then if it was really bad there might be a knife or whatever, but now it's like, the automatic answer is grab a weapon and fire it."

Hull-Lovett said, "Definitely relying on my faith. I can't rely on what I see or the progress that I see, because it's minimal, and far in between sometimes, so I have to rely on something that's greater than me."

The barbecue Saturday was intended to raise money so the church could help people with anything from meals to tuition, according to Carter. She said the outreach work the church has done has made a big difference for the community.

"I think it has improved a great deal, because when we first started out there was a lot going on, and I think with us doing what we did, it kind of improved some of the living- helping those people in the community, assisting them in the things that they probably didn't know they needed," Carter said.

Police asked anyone who had information on the incident to contact the Columbia Police Department or CrimeStoppers at (573) 875-TIPS.