COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — Friends and family of 21-year-old Andrew Combs gathered to honor his life on Friday at the same place where he died just a few days before.
Combs was fatally shot while trying to stop a robbery overnight Tuesday at the Sunoco station on West Broad Street and Harris Avenue in the Hilltop. Combs’ girlfriend and mother of his unborn child, Victoria Perez, said she’s heartbroken.
“It breaks my heart because I’ll never see him again and neither will our son,” Perez said. “I just can’t unsee that. That’s just something you can’t unsee.”
Perez was with Combs on the night of his death. She said she held her boyfriend on the steps outside the gas station and watched life leave his eyes.
“It’s playing in my head of him screaming, and I know he would want me to do, this but it hurts,” Perez said. “He loved his friends, like he would do anything for his friends, just like that night.”
According to an arrest warrant affidavit, a witness with Combs told detectives that three men walked into the gas station shortly after they did. Multiple witnesses reported that one of the suspects, wielding a gun, attempted to rob a witness. Combs then punched one of the suspects.
During the altercation, detectives allege the suspects pushed Combs outside, where he fell. Witnesses reported the three suspects pulled out guns, with at least one of them firing shots at Combs, who was still on the ground. He was transported to the hospital, where he died.
Perez said she’s confused and angry. Those feelings are exacerbated, she said, after learning a man police allege was involved in Combs’ death was accidentally released from the Franklin County Jail two weeks before the shooting.
“Andrew would never cause trouble with anyone, and he just took his life with no remorse. He didn’t care whatsoever,” Perez said.
On Friday, Franklin County Sheriff’s Office officials confirmed that 20-year-old David Johnson III, a suspect in Combs’ death, was released from jail due to “human error.” Johnson was arrested in November on multiple charges, including child endangerment and involuntary manslaughter, after his 1-year-old baby died of a fentanyl overdose. He faces another murder charge for an April 2021 incident.
An officer who regularly works near the gas station identified one of the suspects as Johnson, who the officer said he recognized as someone he “had dealt with” before. According to the affidavit, detectives believe they also identified Johnson in surveillance footage.
The vigil was held in the same spot where Combs took his final breath. In his place sits a symbol of his legacy – a bear with a picture of the first heartbeat of his unborn child.
“He got it for me the day he died, actually right before we got to see the baby’s face for the first time,” Perez said.
Police are still searching for Johnson, and two other suspects remain at large. Columbus police ask anyone with information on the incident or Johnson’s whereabouts to call Columbus police’s Homicide Unit at 614-645-4730 or Central Ohio Crime Stoppers at 614-461-8477.