Man Found Guility of Killing Two Outside Convenient Store

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June 30, 2023

Columbia-James Jamal Toatley, 34, was convicted of murder by a Richland County jury on Tuesday, June 27, 2023, for the brutal killings of 38 year old Curtis Dinkins and 42 year old Corey Smith.  Toatley was also convicted of attempted murder, assault and battery of a high and aggravated nature, and possession of a weapon during the commission of a violent crime for conduct related to the same incident.  Circuit Court Judge Jocelyn Newman presided over the week-long trial and sentenced Toatley to fifty-seven (57) years in prison. Toatley will not be eligible for parole and will serve this sentence day-for-day.

On December 19, 2020, at approximately 2:38 a.m., Toatley shot and killed Curtis Dinkins as he was attempting to get into a car occupied by his friends, including Corey Smith, who was sitting in the driver’s seat.  This incident occurred at The Motor City Market, commonly referred to as “The Little Blue Store”, located at 5601 Fairfield Road.  Toatley also shot into the car, narrowly missing two more victims, who escaped the vehicle and survived.  Toatley then executed Corey Smith by shooting him the back of his head while he was still wearing his seat-belt.

Video evidence and testimony introduced at trial revealed that prior to the shooting, two of the victims entered the Market to purchase cigarettes.  While all waiting in line to check out, Toatley started an altercation over his hand being accidentally brushed by one of the victims.  He then fired on the victims as they attempted to leave the area.

Audio evidence from ShotSpotter, a sensor system that recognizes gunshots and dispatches law enforcement based upon the location of the gunshots, was paired with video of the attack and was introduced during the trial of this case.  This is believed to be the first time such evidence has been introduced in Richland County since the ShotSpotter system was installed by the City of Columbia.

Even so, the introduction of this evidence would not have been possible without the testimony of bystander witnesses and the surviving victims, which serves as proof that community assistance is essential in combatting the epidemic of gun violence in our community.

Assistant Solicitor Melanie F. Darko handled the trial of this case, along with Assistant Solicitors Paul Walton and Keith Taylor.  The investigation was conducted by the Richland County Sheriff’s Office with the assistance of the Columbia Police Department.

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