Some Columbia businesses still worry about violence downtown

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COLUMBIA - In the last two weeks, downtown has seen two separate incidents of gun violence, leaving some businesses concerned about safety.

A shooting early in the morning of Sunday, July 29 sent one man to the hospital with a gunshot wound. The second shooting, happened around 2:30 a.m. Saturday, August 4, but no one was hurt. 

"It's worrisome for any business owner in the downtown area," Celeste Hardnock, who owns My Sister's Circus, said. "It's unfortunate that this is all happening in a short period of time, that makes it more intense." 

Marianna Vazques, a manager at El Rancho, was working when she heard two gunshots on July 29. The business is normally open until 3 a.m. on weekends, but she said they had to close down an hour early because of what happened. 

"Just the fact that there's been two so close in time frame, you know, it does make you think twice about wanting to go downtown," Vazques said. 

She said she worries if gun-related incidents continue, customers will avoid going downtown at night. 

Alex Weaver, an MU student, said he's never felt unsafe downtown and doesn't think students will stop going.

"But if I were a parent and I knew that was happening, I'd tell them to stay at home and have fun with your friends at home," he said. 

While many business owners were concerned, some said there is not much they can do. 

Steven Sapp, a spokesperson for the Columbia Police Department, said their goal is ensure everyone feels safe downtown. In the meantime, he said there will be enhanced patrols in the downtown area and that some businesses are looking into things like security cameras in case of more incidents.