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3 teenagers were fatally shot in South Carolina, and two schoolmates have been arrested

Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott, right, and Councilmember Gretchen Barron speak at a news conference on Monday, Sept. 25, 2023 in Columbia, S.C. (AP Photo/James Pollard)
James Pollard/AP
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AP
Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott, right, and Councilmember Gretchen Barron speak at a news conference on Monday, Sept. 25, 2023 in Columbia, S.C. (AP Photo/James Pollard)

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — Two people showed up at an abandoned house where four teenagers were hanging out and opened fire, killing three of them and wounding the fourth in an escalation of an old quibble over a burglary, authorities said Monday in Columbia, South Carolina.

Two 17-year-old Eau Claire High School students were both arrested on three counts of murder, one of attempted murder and possessing a weapon during a violent crime, according to the Richland County Sheriff's Department. An investigation is ongoing, and more arrests could be made, Deputy Veronica Hill, a public information officer, told The Associated Press Monday afternoon.

The teenagers who were killed also attended Eau Claire High School, according to a statement from Craig Witherspoon, the district superintendent. The lone survivor attended a nearby middle school.

The district provided additional counseling and security at the high school Monday in response to the “unimaginable tragedy,” which Witherspoon decried as “senseless gun violence.”

Sheriff’s deputies responded to the shooting in Columbia, the state capital, just after 2 p.m. Sunday, the sheriff’s department said.

After the two shooters opened fire at the house, they followed the victims as they fled to the backyard and continued firing, according to a redacted incident report. It was part of a “beef” that Lott said began two years ago with a burglary.

Three victims were 16 and 17 years old and died at the hospital, and the fourth victim, who is 14, was released, the sheriff’s department said. The Richland County Coroner's office identified the deceased as JaKobe Fanning, Caleb Wise and Dre’von Riley.

Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott would not say how the weapons were obtained at a Monday news conference. But, he said, too many Columbia gunowners leave their firearms in cars, where they are easily stolen. The city experienced 100 vehicle break-ins this past weekend, Lott said.

Lott said he held the news conference to address “something that seems to be recurring” in Columbia and nationwide.

Nine people ages 16 to 20 were injured in a park shooting this spring at an event involving students from Columbia-area high schools, officials noted.

Witherspoon and other elected officials called for more out-of-school programming by churches, schools and governments. While the vast majority of young residents do not commit crimes like the weekend slaying, they said, these shootings should not be normalized, they said.

Richland County Councilmember Gretchen Barron said lawmakers cannot legislate “good behavior” and “healthy choices."

“We need everybody in the village that’s standing behind me and the village that’s out there listening to this,” Lott said. “We need to do more. This proves that we haven’t done enough.”