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Columbia homicides tie 20-year high

Wednesday’s killing of James Hickem tied a grim milestone for the city of Columbia.

The death marked the ninth homicide in Columbia in which law enforcement believed a crime occurred. That ties the number of killings set in 2017, the highest such mark in the last 20 years.

Columbia Police Chief Geoff Jones said Wednesday that officers were investigating a 10th killing, that of KeJuane Johnson on Sept. 18, as a possible justifiable homicide.

Other categories of violent crime are trailing those of last year’s. Crime data from the Missouri State Highway Patrol show that the city has 43 rapes, 46 robberies, 160 assaults and 312 burglaries this year through August. Only assaults are on pace to come near their 2018 levels.

Jones said the department is looking into how to expand its community policing model citywide. The department’s Community Outreach Unit focused on four specific neighborhoods of town, leading to a reduction in crime in those areas.

“I think we’ve all been working to come up with a staffing plan to fit people’s idea of what community policing is,” Jones said. “But until we have enough officers, we will not be able to put it citywide. But we do plan to put it in areas where we think people will benefit.”

Police have made a handful of arrests in this year’s cases. Michael Anderson is suspected in the death of E’quan Spain on Sept. 14.

Laron Nesbitt was arrested for the shooting of Deonte Gainwell in January. Three men, Cortez Brimmage, Derrick Petty and Dontrez Jones, are all in custody for the killing of David Morgan on June 26.

Officers said Wayne Trentman killed Mary Trentman shortly before taking his own life on March 11.

At least two suspects remain on the loose for 2019 cases. Prosecutors issued a warrant for Aaron Harris’ arrest in the Spain case, but Harris remains at large.

Jones identified Javion Wallace-Lawhorn as a suspect in the shooting of Nadria Wright and Sam Baldwin IV on Sept. 13. Court documents say Wallace-Lawhorn and Baldwin were involved in a feud.


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