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Home  |  News  |  Suspect who killed self in front of police implicated in restaurant owner's murder

Suspect who killed self in front of police implicated in restaurant owner's murder
Wednesday, February 23, 2011


COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - An armed robbery suspect shot himself in front of Columbia police officers Tuesday night rather than allowing himself to be arrested. Police now believe the man had murdered a restaurant owner less than an hour earlier.

Mario Jerome Stokes, 23, shot himself in the parking lot of the Walgreens on Garners Ferry Road around 9:29pm after a short chase by Columbia police, according to Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott. Lott said the suicide was the culmination of a brief armed robbery spree that included the murder of Steve Kim, who owned the restaurant Dino's on Decker.

Lott said the saga began when Stokes stole a white Ford Escape around 7:26pm. About an hour later, Columbia Police Chief Randy Scott said Stokes entered the Family Dollar on Leesburg Road, pulled out a handgun and hit an employee with the gun. Scott said Stokes fled in the Ford Escape with an undisclosed amount of money.

Around 8:50pm, Scott said Stokes entered the China Palace Restaurant on South Beltline Boulevard, committed an armed robbery and fled in the Ford Escape. Ten minutes later, police say Stokes went from a robbery to a murderer when he walked into Dino's on Decker and shot owner Steve Kim while robbing the restaurant.

Around 9:30pm, Scott said an officer saw the Ford Escape on Garners Ferry Road and tried to pull the SUV over. The SUV kept going, but Scott said Stokes eventually pulled into the Walgreens parking lot on Garners Ferry Road.

Officers called out to Stokes to show his hands and exit the vehicle, but Scott said Stokes did not respond. When officers approached the SUV, Scott said they found Stokes with a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.

Investigators say the gun Stokes used matched ballistics from a gun stolen from the Columbia Metropolitan Airport on February 10. Lott said Stokes has a lengthy record that includes armed robbery, kidnapping, drug possession, hit-and-run and grand larceny.

Columbia police, Richland County deputies and the Richland County Coroner's Office are investigating.

Source: http://www.wistv.com/Global/story.asp?S=14080887

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