COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) – Police have made an arrest in the death of a taxi driver found shot dead in his car one December night in northern Colombia.
Paul Swatsell, 53, worked for Checker Yellow Cab.
He picked up five miners from a Waffle House on the night of December 15. When he dropped them off, police said the teenagers robbed him and shot him, causing his car to crash into a tree.
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Officers said they were able to identify all of the minors involved through information and CCTV.
Police arrested two 14-year-olds, charging them with murder and armed robbery, among other offences. Their names have not been disclosed.
Swatsell’s death is a tragedy that many colleagues and friends say was difficult to deal with.
“We are still in shock. It’s just very tragic and sad,” said Peyton Greene, owner of Checker Yellow Cab Company.
Greene said the business was like a family, and fellow Swatsell taxi drivers felt angry and sad to lose Swatsell this way.
“It’s very tragic and sad what happened to Paul,” Greene said. “I mean Paul would have given the money. There is no reason for these children to shoot and kill Paul. He was just a hardworking, dedicated, loyal guy. Just an awesome guy.
His generosity and caring spirit is something friends, including his pastor at Abundant Life Assembly of God in West Columbia, have spoken about in the wake of his death.
“He would have given the shirt off his back to anyone. If these assailants had just asked for money, he would have reached into his pocket and given it. They didn’t have to blow it up,” Pastor Jerry Flowers said.
Pastor Jerry Flowers told WIS in an interview days after Swatsell’s funeral that he had been driving a cab for more than 30 years, fulfilling a lifelong dream.
“I said when you were a kid what you wanted to be and he said a taxi driver. He loved meeting people,” Pastor Flowers said.
Pastor Flowers said that after Swatsell’s death the church held a prayer service for all taxi drivers.
“These taxi drivers, their lives are really on the line,” Pastor Flowers said. “Because when they take someone, they don’t know the person they took and what their intentions might be.”
Greene said Swatsell’s colleagues are facing a new wave of shock following the arrest of two teenagers, announced by Columbia Police Chief Skip Holbrook yesterday.
“We were shocked; 14 years old. They’re still a kid,” Greene said.
Greene said he was at the bond hearings for one of the 14-year-olds today, along with some of Swatsell’s colleagues and friends, wanting to honor the man who has been so generous to so many .
Greene said Checker Cab Company does not plan to make any changes as a result of this shooting, but they have safety measures in place for drivers and passengers, including a way to call the dispatcher. company since their application.
Greene said the minor’s lawyers waived their right to a bail hearing and they are both still behind bars.
Chief Skip Holbrook said the investigation is open and there may be further arrests.
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