A Fort Jackson soldier is under arrest and remains in police custody after being charged with murder and attempted murder by the Richland County Sheriff’s Department Sept. 5.
Staff Sgt. Marquez L. Johnson was arrested for charges stemming from a homicide investigation by the local authorities in neighboring Richland County.
Johnson is assigned to the Special Troops Battalion on Fort Jackson, South Carolina, and has been stationed there since 2014, serving as a range instructor. Johnson, an infantryman, has been in the U.S. Army since 2003 and has two combat deployments to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Christopher J. Fletcher, a Fort Jackson spokesman, confirmed his arrest for charges stemming from a July 27 homicide investigation by the local authorities in neighboring Richland County.
On July 27, a verbal altercation led to the shooting and death of 41-year-old Aaron Collins and 46-year-old Sydni Collins, as well as the injury of a third person. It was around 9:45 PM when, according to witnesses, the Collins were stopped while riding their motorcycle along with another rider on the corner of Parklane Road and Claudia Drive in northeast Columbia.
Witness testimony says a dark colored SUV pulled at their side. After a few brief moments of what sounded like an altercation, gunfire erupted from within the SUV with bullets hitting and killing the couple. The third rider managed to take cover and escaped with non-life-threatening injuries.
Police later recovered as many as 17 bullet casings from the crime scene.
After interviewing witnesses, police issued a warrant for the arrest of 43-year-old Ricardo Laroy Middleton, a member of the Thunderguards Motorcycle Club, on suspicion that he was the one that shot and killed the couple due to their affiliation with another motorcycle club, the Outcast MC.
Middleton was taken into custody August 2nd by members of the Berkeley County Sheriff’s Office Community Action Team, Richland County Sheriff’s Office and the U.S. Marshals Task Force, and he was charged with two counts of murder and one count of attempted murder.
Following the preliminary investigation by local police authorities and the Midland Gang task force, officials realized Johnson was actually present during the shooting and had left the scene without alerting law enforcement.
After a police interview, Johnson declined to identify those involved in the shooting, but police later learned after an extensive investigation that Johnson was a pledged member, or prospect, of the MC. He was later arrested on August 8 for misprision of a felony and was released on $20,000 bond, pending court proceedings.
Following Johnson’s release, new information obtained from eyewitnesses identified him as the one that opened fire hitting and killing Sydni Collins. The same witnesses claimed that Middleton was the one that shot and killed Aaron Collins.
Both Outcast MC and Thunderguards MC, with chapters across the United States including South Carolina, are so-called 1% Motorcycle Clubs. The American Motorcycle Association coined the expression “1%”, “1%er” or “1 percenter” in a statement they made in response to the 1947 riot in Hollister, California. It stated that 99% of motorcycle riders are law-abiding citizens. Not long after the AMA released their statement, the outlaw clubs of the time stated that they were the other 1%.
Fort Jackson’s commander, Maj. Gen. Pete Johnson, said the Army takes the murder allegations very seriously.
“We will continue to cooperate to the fullest extent possible with the local authorities on this case,” he said in a statement.