AIKEN - Quick thinking saved Annette Michael's life Monday.
While a man was fatally shooting three colleagues at the Aiken County welfare office in North Augusta, Ms. Michael, drenched in the blood of her friends, fell to the floor and played dead, said sources close to the Department of Social Services.
Warrants for three counts of murder, one count of kidnapping and one count of assault with intent to kill have been issued for David Mark Hill, 36, of North Augusta, police said Tuesday. He is accused in the homicides of Josie Curry, James Riddle and Michael Gregory.
Mr. Hill shot himself early Tuesday and was in critical condition at the Medical College of Georgia Hospital.
According to the sources, Mr. Hill walked into the North Augusta DSS office shortly after 2 p.m., pointed a handgun at Ms. Curry, and demanded to know the location of his family's caseworker.
He then forced Ms. Curry at gunpoint to walk back to Mr. Riddle's cubicle. Ms. Michael was nearby. Some words were said, and Mr. Hill fired, the sources said.
Ms. Curry and Mr. Riddle were felled by the gunfire, and Ms. Michael dropped to the floor. Covered with blood splattered from the wounds of Mr. Riddle and Ms. Curry, she was physically unharmed, the sources said.
Police later found Mr. Gregory's body in a bathroom; they say it's unclear when he was shot.
One eyewitness, Mary Barton, said she'll never forget the terror of Monday's events - in particular a woman she thought probably was going to die who turned out to be Ms. Michael.
"One woman had blood all over her," Ms. Barton said. "She laid down like she played dead."
Ms. Barton never learned the woman's name but said her whole left side was covered in blood. She said she was relieved to learn that Ms. Michael was unharmed.
Ms. Barton said she saw Mr. Hill run past her shortly after 2 p.m. as she waited with an elderly friend, another woman and two children in a waiting area. Mr. Hill went through the door into the main room where the caseworkers' desks were located, she said.
Ms. Barton heard, but didn't see, the shooting.
She praised the caseworkers who helped get people to safety.
"They were more concerned about us than themselves," the Augusta resident said. "They were fantastic."
The full force of the tragedy didn't hit until later, when she was home.
"It's like an earthquake in having aftershocks and tremors," Ms. Barton said. "Three hours after I got home I started shaking and trembling, and then I started to cry and I couldn't stop."