Columbia, SC (WLTX) - Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott says two shoplifters killed an 81-year-old employee at the Sears store in Columbia.

Duaine Hamilton

Lott held a news conference Wednesday morning with the latest on the death of Duaine Hamilton, an employee at the store located at the Columbia Place Mall on Two Notch Road.

Jason Randolph
Jason Randolph

Lott says Hamilton, who'd worked at the store for years, was on his shift when two suspects, identified as 40-year-old Jason Randolph and Jeffery Alan Simmons, went into the store.

The started to steal two 49-inch TVs from the store, according to the sheriff, but Hamilton, an Air Force veteran, attempted to stand in their way to stop them. The two then attacked Hamilton, however, knocking him to the ground where his head took a blow.

The suspects then ran from the store, deputies say. Hamilton was taken to the hospital where he was put on life support, but he ultimately passed away last Saturday.

His funeral was Wednesday morning, at the same time Lott was talking.

"He was living life, enjoying the golden years of his life, and it was just snatched from him by two punks who wanted to steal two TVs, and those two TVs were more important that his life," Lott said.

Lott says Hamilton had moved to Columbia years ago and had worked at AT&T for many years. He retired, but then went to work at the Sears store in the loss prevention department--the people in charge of looking out for shoplifters.

He was a regular churchgoer, and a good member of the community, the sheriff adds.

"This could have been anyone's grandfather," Lott said.

Randolph and Simmons have lengthy criminal records, Lott says, all for stealing items. Both have now been arrested.

Both will be charged with murder, Lott clarified.

The sheriff said investigators have talked to witnesses, but are looking to talk to more.

"We deserve better than that in Richland County, and we really need your help," Watts said

Anyone with information should call Crime Stoppers at 1-888-CRIME-SC.