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Riverwalk visitors wary after couple's mugging

Monday, May 6, 2013 10:02 PM
Last updated Thursday, May 9, 2013 8:30 PM
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Marcell Murphy likes the quiet seclusion offered by Riverwalk Augusta on warm spring nights.

Richmond County sheriff's Deputy Ryan Ferguson walks along Riverwalk Augusta. An attack on a couple there Friday has business owners worried that people will avoid downtown until they feel safer again.  TODD BENNETT/STAFF
TODD BENNETT/STAFF
Richmond County sheriff's Deputy Ryan Ferguson walks along Riverwalk Augusta. An attack on a couple there Friday has business owners worried that people will avoid downtown until they feel safer again.

“It’s just very peaceful out here at night. It’s a good place to sit and think,” said Murphy, who was sharing a swing and a view of the Savannah River with his friend Lauren Bush at dusk Monday.

The two North Augustans were among a handful of couples out for an evening stroll, undaunted by the few working electric lights along the riverwalk path.
But Murphy acknowledged the isolation can have a darker side. He encounters more homeless people asking for money than he see police officers.

“It’s peaceful, but it’s dangerous,” he said. “There are some places you just don’t go.”

Police are still trying to find two assailants who attacked and robbed another young couple Friday night on the riverwalk.

Police say Wesley L. Spires, 27, of Edgefield, and Ashley E. Solesbee, 25, of North Augusta, were clubbed with a metal pipe or bat and had to make their way to University Hospital on their own just after 11 p.m. Friday. They suffered several facial fractures and head wounds. Spires also had a broken hand, according to an incident report from the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office.

University Hospital spokeswoman Rebecca Sylvester said Solesbee was released from the hospital Monday morning.

No condition was available for Spires, who police said had suffered a skull fracture and brain bleeding from the attack.

The suspects are described as two tall, slim black males with short dreadlocks who were wearing black clothing and saggy pants.

Police have every reason to believe it was a random attack and was not related to the robbery and beating of a Beech Island man outside Riverfront Pub on Thursday evening, sheriff’s Lt. Calvin Chew said.

Those incidents, and the recent Internet posting of video showing a large brawl on Broad Street in April, have again heightened concerns about safety in downtown Augusta.

Restaurant owners near the riverwalk worry that the violent mugging could be another blow to business, similar what happened after a shooting on Broad Street after First Friday in July that injured six people.

William Harrison, the owner of The Boll Weevil Cafe on Ninth Street, said that the restaurant was very busy during the weekend but that one high-profile crime can hurt business.

Employees of The Cotton Patch near Eighth Street were reminded Saturday of the restaurant’s policy not to close the restaurant by themselves, take trash outside alone or walk to cars alone, manager Rose Evans said.

Evans and Harrison said that there is little to no police presence on the riverwalk and that security cameras need to be installed to deter crime.

“It’s nice during the day, but I wouldn’t go down there at night,” Harrison said. “It’s not well-lit. It’s not patrolled by police that I’ve ever seen.”

The area’s reputation could be salvaged if the city and sheriff’s office react immediately to improve security and keep crime from worsening, Harrison said.

On Monday, the Downtown Development Authority scheduled a meeting with the sheriff’s office for Wednesday to discuss downtown crime rates, Executive Director Margaret Woodard said. The focus of the meeting will be regularly collecting crime statistics that can be published for the public to view, she said.

Security cameras for the riverwalk could be funded by a special purpose local option sales tax in the final quarter of the year, Woodard said.

“We would encourage people to stay in well-lit, populated areas where businesses are open,” she said.

Other downtown visitors Monday said the attack was a big concern. Dottie Smith said she doesn’t go downtown alone.

Smith said that she has lived in Miami, Los Angeles, Atlanta and New York but that two of the three times she has been robbed, she was in downtown Augusta.

“I don’t go downtown alone,” she said from a bench not far from where the attacks occurred Friday evening. “I don’t feel that comfortable as a woman downtown alone.”

Jeffery Willis, who was with Smith, said the attacks won’t affect his decision to come downtown, but he’s not a woman. First Friday, however, is a different story.

“(I’m) pretty much not coming downtown on First Friday because of the things I read in the paper,” the Evans resident said.

Chew said the sheriff’s office is beefing up patrols and asking people to be wary of their surroundings, especially in isolated, dark areas. All suspicious behavior should be reported to police, he said.

“It’s unfortunate that this happened down there. All our investigators are involved. It is a priority. We want people to feel safe downtown,” Chew said. “It is very disturbing, and the sheriff is concerned.”

BRAWL POSTED ONLINE

Police said Monday they are seeking witnesses and information into a downtown Augusta brawl after someone posted a film clip on YouTube.

Richmond County sheriff’s Lt. Calvin Chew said the video, which shows fighting near the front of New Moon Cafe in the 1000 block of Broad Street, was brought to the attention of investigators after someone found it on the video-sharing site.

The video shows several men and women stomping and beating one another near the cafe on Broad Street. Several people can be seen standing around the fight, videotaping the incident on their smartphones. The 2-minute video ends when the crowd scatters after sounds resembling gunshots can be heard.

Chew said police are looking into the incident to see whether any reports were filed or whether witnesses can be found.

The YouTube poster lists the time as 2:31 a.m. April 27.

– Bianca Cain Johnson, staff writer

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countyman
19751
Points
countyman 05/07/13 - 01:42 am
2
13
Media Coverage=Awful

The crime stats won't lie, and the media barrage is only doing Augusta harm. I want to see the same amount of coverage when the crime stats come out. Let's compare downtown versus the other areas of Augusta, and the areas outside of Augusta. If the media is truly unbiased then prove it to the public. Downtown is the only real option right now outside of West Augusta to attract high paying office jobs. Please be smart, and careful when it comes to the reporting. The same way you interviewed people and showed them the fight or told them about the attack on the Riverwalk. Go seek out different people, and show them the crime stats of downtown. Let them see how they compare against multiple other areas. If they still don't feel safe then at least downtown got a 'fair' shot.

I think everybody agrees increased police after 10 pm and security cameras would serve the area greatly. The incident on the Riverwalk is terrible, but let's not completely panic. Every time something happens downtown we have this same discussion. Multiple articles related to safety, but none before the crimes were committed. How come we never bring downtown into the spotlight until crime happens? I don't mean one article, but multiple articles related to the events, festivals, etc happening each week.

I'm trying to figure out why the media never decides to report crime the same outside of downtown. Its always do you feel safe? Is downtown safe? Those questions never came up for some reason for certain areas, and I think that's a legitimate question.

TheGeorgian
411
Points
TheGeorgian 05/07/13 - 02:38 am
6
1
My solution

My solution is to give police AK47s or something similar and have vulnerable couples along the Riverwalk as decoys. When thugs appear, blast 'em. It would be cheaper than warehousing them while they plan their next crime spree. And I'd put perps of violent crime on chain gangs doing hard roadwork and their pay for this would go to their victims.

Riverman1
82451
Points
Riverman1 05/07/13 - 04:39 am
8
1
Police Checkpoints for Those on the Street Downtown?

The video was pretty scary. It's hard to police an area in that lawless environment. I suggest law enforcement concentrate on "safe corridors" and warn visitors to stay on these streets. Eventually, the corridors can be expanded.

This is not new violence; it's been going on for a long time as evidenced by the First Friday shootings in the past. The RCSO is dreadfully undermanned and that puts us at a disadvantage. Officers are few and spread out. It's going to take a while to gain control.

People should stick to safe areas until the tide turns away from the crime and violence. We have Operation Thunder checkpoints for motorists out in the county,but should we have checkpoints for those walking downtown? Check ID's, check for warrants, drugs and weapons. The jail would be filled quickly.

ymnbde
9585
Points
ymnbde 05/07/13 - 06:00 am
12
1
young black males are less than 3% of the population

and commit more than 50% of violent crimes.
Both numbers are higher in Augusta.
if we keep saying things like, "look at west Augusta... there's crime in Columbia County, too..." we're already losing. We all know the numbers, every single one of us knows the numbers, and no other groups compare.
Our schools endow victimhood upon young black males very early, then don't educate them well enough to even see alternatives. They've lost an entire generation.

seenitB4
85836
Points
seenitB4 05/07/13 - 08:07 am
9
1
countyman---ctyman---ctyman

What are we going to do withya....

Can you relate to this couple at all.....I mean really......

Can you see yourself sitting on the bench with a friend & some punks come up demanding money....when you don't satisfy them they start swinging a bat at your head.....please try to...

The stats don't mean diddly squat when your head is fractured....we are DANG SICK OF CRIME...sick to death...here ..there & everywhere...& I don't care how many new buildngs are going up..

Dixieman
14485
Points
Dixieman 05/08/13 - 11:32 am
5
2
Depressing

There is no hope for downtown Augusta (or any other American inner city of comparable size). We live in a sick, degenerate society and this is the result. Absent fathers, poverty, rotten schools, gangs, lack of morals...I hate to say it, but since there is no cure the only answer is to work hard and move yourself and your family to a better place and abandon the war zone that is downtown after dark.
And that headline -- "Riverwalk visitors wary after couple's mugging"? How about "AWOL" in place of "wary". I am now not going there even during daylight hours. I used to go and take my kid to the playground and then walk along with her up and down Riverwalk. No more.

countyman
19751
Points
countyman 05/07/13 - 01:52 pm
1
8
Facts

Zero homicides since probably 2010?

Zero shootings since July of 2012?

Very low number of violent crimes?

How is the perception of downtown in some people's eyes so different from the reality?

Johnny Hensley
42
Points
Johnny Hensley 05/07/13 - 02:44 pm
7
0
Young Couple Being Beat Up on Riverwalk

I realize that the RCSO can not be EVERYWHERE all the time. But, It is imperative folks coming to Augusta to the T Center for conventions feel safe beyond any and all doubt. There is only one way to do this...and it's not cameras. By the time you see and attack on camera and dispatch a patrol person there....it's TOO LATE and the attack will spread like wildfire through the rest of the convention. As I see it....it's going to take a MINIMUM of 2 to 3 armed deputies, with very high profile, very intensive flash lights burning at all times after dark and patrol Riverwalk from the Marriott to the railroad track up until about 3am. Conventioneers love to make it a night on the town and we should love for them to do it...unabated and protected. Broad Street. Another issue all together...but I believe the answer will be pretty much the same. Hi Profile Patrol is the BEST DETERRENT. And the patrol needs a friendly attitude of "Welcome To Augusta, Hope you're enjoying yourself. Let us know if there is anything we can do to make your stay more enjoyable. It's called Ambassadors. Just my little 3 cents worth. (inflation). Johnny

RMSHEFF
15901
Points
RMSHEFF 05/07/13 - 02:49 pm
4
0
This is a difficult problem

This is a difficult problem to solve. Everyone in law enforcement knows exactly who these criminals are and where they come from. Law enforcement can't be everywhere and there is also a fear of this becoming a racial issue but these thugs must be dealt with for the sake of the law abiding folks. As things are now we are the ones who must retreat to our homes after dark and lock our door and windows in fear. These thugs do not fear us we fear them and this is what must change. My guess is that the people in the neighborhoods where the thugs reside know exactly who the trouble makers are but for some reason don't want to cooperate with law enforcement and point out the troublemakers. While I did not support Roundtree for sheriff I was hopeful he might be able to gain the support and cooperation of the minority community in trying to clean up Augusta.....maybe my hopes are in vein.

itsanotherday1
42295
Points
itsanotherday1 05/07/13 - 09:55 pm
4
0
It is time to step on some

It is time to step on some toes. Just make downtown an unpleasant place to loiter. Those folks involved in the brawl didn't just run up from all directions and start fighting. That group had been growing for a while. I've seen an officer on a Segway down there; so put three or four more patrolling the walkways from Riverwalk to Greene; 13th to 5th. Be sure there is a loitering ordinace in place, and roust anyone who appears to be "just hanging out". Of course, there will be cries of profiling, etc., but to hell with them. The safety and security of downtown is more important than someone's perceived slight.

Unfortunately, one identifiable segment of people will be most affected, so the people running the city won't do it. So be it if they won't; they will reap what they sew....

Gage Creed
16818
Points
Gage Creed 05/07/13 - 10:15 pm
5
1
Hmmm.... once again facts

Hmmm.... once again facts seem distant from countyman's recollection

2012
• Jermaine Desmond Little, 32, died Feb. 4 after he was beaten outside Paul’s IGA on Greene Street on Feb. 1. Earnest Earl Dailey Jr., 38, was charged with murder March 14 after he surrendered to police.
• William McClain, 63, died June 12 after being beaten in the head with a floor lamp at the old Days Inn, 444 Broad St. Bryant Willerson, 44, was charged with murder.
• Joseph Williams, 64, was shot Aug. 21 during a robbery in the parking lot of his First Street apartment complex. Seth Rouzan, 26, and Ronnie Pontoon, 15, were charged with murder and armed robbery
• Tim Grooms, 59, of Lincolnton, was shot twice Oct. 16 in his aunt’s seventh-floor University Hospital room. His aunt’s husband, Charles Gorrell, 85, of Aiken, has been charged with murder and possession of a handgun during the commission of a crime.
• Demetrius Moore, 21, was fatally shot Nov. 13 during an attempted robbery in a stairwell at River Glen Apartments. Rayshawn Migeal Ward, 16, and Demariye Vontrell Glover, 17, were charged with murder. Glover was also charged with criminal attempt armed robbery and possession of a firearm during the commission of a crime

ken8375309
1606
Points
ken8375309 05/07/13 - 10:45 pm
1
0
Orwell's 1984 was a novel,

Orwell's 1984 was a novel, not a government instruction manual.. Please stop trying to turn Augusta into a big brother police state with ineffective video cameras and unconstitutional "Operation Blunder" road blocks.. Clearly violent crime is on the upswing since resources have been focused on other higher revenue generating missions..

Riverman1
82451
Points
Riverman1 05/08/13 - 11:42 am
2
1
Thanks Gage Creed

Let me help with this: 1,2,3,4,5. In case anyone has trouble with math as we've noticed some do, that's FIVE murders in 2012 downtown.

countyman
19751
Points
countyman 05/13/13 - 05:23 pm
1
1
None of those five murders

None of those five murders happen in the Central Business District. Major fail lol!!!!!!!

The Riverglenn apartments are located in EAST AUGUSTA!!1

augrichgal
297
Points
augrichgal 07/05/13 - 12:31 pm
0
0
Riverwalk

Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights i think should be a deputy on the Riverwalk. It is a beautiful place to go and to see the light reflections off the water, but it is secluded and can be dangerous. it is a shame we cannot enjoy it.

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