Man charged with Attempted Murder in Columbia cemetery attack


COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) – An investigator says a man who drove his car into mourners at a South Carolina graveside had a grudge against the state mental health agency where the woman being buried worked.

At James Kester’s bond hearing Thursday, he told a judge he was mad because the Department of Mental Health kept him from seeing his daughter for 600 days.

Media outlets reported Columbia Police investigator William Hilton said Kester noticed Margaret Livingston’s obituary mentioned she worked at the agency.

Cousin Tammy Altman was at the funeral and said Kester just hit the gas and looked like he was trying to turn around to hit more mourners when his car stopped Wednesday at Greenlawn Cemetery in Columbia.

Kester faces 12 counts of attempted murder. His bond was set at $5 million.

Columbia, S.C. (WOLO) – Columbia Police have arrested and charged a man with 12 counts of attempted murder in connection to the Greenlawn Cemetery collision.

Police announced late Wednesday that James Kester, 64, is facing 12 counts of attempted murder charges after plowing into a crowd of people who were attending a funeral service.

Officers say Kester’s alleged crime was an intentional act and they’re working to determine a motive.

“The tragedy alone of losing a loved one, and having a funeral, and then coupled with a collision where several people were injured is very hard to understand,” Jennifer Timmons said, a PIO with the Columbia Police Department said.

Palmetto Health Baptist and Palmetto Health Richland’s Emergency Departments confirmed they received 12 patients in relation to this incident. One of those patients is in serious condition, four are in fair condition and four have been discharged. Three patients are still being evaluated.

“It was determined that there was an elderly male driver, who asked someone a question who was attending the funeral. And for whatever reason accelerated the vehicle, causing injuries to multiple people, who were attending the funeral which was in process,” Timmons said.

“Once we arrived on scene we found multiple victims that were struck by a vehicle. The vehicle was still on scene, it was occupied by an elderly male at that time,” Melron Kelly said, Deputy Chief of Columbia Police.

A triage tent was set up almost immediately where they treated patients before transporting them to the hospital. The male driver has been detained and is currently being questioned by criminal investigators and traffic safety officers. It’s still unclear whether or not the driver was with funeral service, but officials said he was on cemetery grounds before running into the service.

“We have to determine if this was an intentional act, or if it was not,” Timmons said.

Police are still looking for answers as to why the man accelerated through the funeral service.

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