Dealer group employee killed in shooting at Kia store in South Carolina

A JT’s Auto Group employee died following a shooting Monday at the group’s Kia dealership in Columbia, S.C.

Police found Graham Pope, 39, shot multiple times sitting in a vehicle at JT’s Kia of Columbia. He was transported to a hospital, where he later died, Columbia Police Chief William Holbrook said at a Tuesday news conference.

Pope worked as a digital marketing specialist for the auto group, according to his obituary. A dealership employee said a store manager would not comment.

A motive for the shooting was unknown, and the investigation was ongoing, Holbrook said.

Officers responded to investigate reports of a shooting outside the dealership at 3:04 p.m., according to a Columbia Police Department post on the social media platform X, formerly Twitter, on Tuesday.

At the news conference, Holbrook gave details of the shooting. It was followed by a police chase and crash involving three vehicles, which killed a pregnant woman and her fetus.

Holbrook said that when police arrived at the dealership, at approximately 3:08 p.m., a witness described the suspect’s vehicle as a gray Ford Mustang. The suspect was located about two minutes later but did not comply with an officer’s siren and lights to pull over, and accelerated, according to Holbrook.

Holbrook said that less than a minute later, an officer collided with a 2023 Toyota sedan at an intersection while heading in the direction of the suspect’s vehicle. The 34-year-old woman driving the Toyota died, and Richland County, S.C., Coroner Naida Rutherford said her fetus of 27 to 28 weeks gestation also did not survive.

Police said a 2010 Honda minivan that was stopped in the roadway was also involved in the crash. The officer suffered serious leg injuries and underwent surgery, Holbrook said, while the Honda driver was treated and released from a hospital. The South Carolina Highway Patrol is investigating the crash per policy, Holbrook said.

Holbrook said officers followed the suspect for several miles before arresting him after he ran into the woods.

The suspect was identified as 28-year-old Westley Gross, Holbrook said. At the time of the shooting, Gross was out on a $10,000 bond for a breach of peace of a high, aggregated nature and presenting a fireman at a person.

Gross is now charged with murder, possession of a weapon during a violent crime and failure to stop for a blue light siren. He was being held without bond in a detention center in Richland County, according to police.


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