It was an explosive morning for one local family as their son became the victim in a violent attack while trying to guard his family's fireworks stand just a couple days before the Fourth of July.
Timothy Merritt and his family run the Southern Boom fireworks tent on East James Campbell Boulevard in Columbia. They've been selling fireworks for the past eight years.
"We keep somebody in here 24/7 so nobody comes in and steals," Merritt said.
But around 2 a.m. Wednesday, one person wasn't enough. Merritt's oldest son, Jonathan, fell asleep on his overnight shift and says he woke up to find four masked men standing over him with a gun.
"They told him to get on the ground immediately, which he did. Then they duct taped his hands behind his back. They duct taped his mouth and they duct taped his eyes, or tried to duct tape his eyes," Merritt said.
Police say the men stole more than $1,000 from the cash register and thousands of dollars worth of fireworks before taking Jonathan's cell phone and his car keys and running off on foot.
"The only information we have is four black males wearing black clothing and black ski masks," said Sgt. Jamie Reed with the Columbia Police Department.
The Merritts say they believe this isn't the men's first time trying to rob them.
"Sunday night my other son, James, younger son, he was here and two guys cut the electricity, slashed one of his tires and then tried to come into the tent. They were cutting through the tent and he heard them, and he got up and yelled at them and they ran off," Merritt said.
The family thought it was just teenagers and it wouldn't happen again.
"We've had that before. We scare them off, they don't come back, but obviously, this time, they went and got a gun and came back with more people," Merritt said.
Merritt says that after these men allegedly tied his son up, they came back to look for something they dropped in the tent.
The family says they will now keep at least two people on guard at all times. Police say it's a good idea, especially heading into the holiday weekend.
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