NORTH AUGUSTA - State and local authorities were conducting a massive manhunt late Tuesday night for a man who killed one person and wounded two others outside two North Augusta restaurants.
The man killed William L. Powell Jr., 61, of North Augusta; shot Constance Davidson, 59, of Belvedere, in the back; and shot the Rev. Earl Carter, of North Augusta, in the throat during a carjacking at about 6 a.m. Tuesday just off the U.S. Highway 25 interchange of Interstate 20, said Chief Lee Wetherington of the North Augusta Department of Public Safety.
Authorities released a composite drawing of the gunman, a white man in his early 20s with sandy blond hair and brown eyes. The man is between 5 feet 4 inches and 5 feet 8 inches tall and weighs about 140 pounds.
"People need to be very much aware that this person is out there," Chief Wetherington said. "He apparently has no problem with shooting. There were a lot of rounds fired. We're fortunate there were only three victims. There could have been more."
Witnesses said the man wore a ski mask or some other type of clothing that partially covered his face, Chief Wetherington said.
A scaled-back shift of officers was scheduled to be on duty throughout the night, canvassing the area with copies of the sketch of the suspect.
Throughout the day and into the evening officers ran down numerous leads of reported sightings.
It is certain that the shooter was driving west at one point on Austin Greybill Road in a 1991 Oldsmobile stolen from Johnston resident Ida Mae Heath at the Bojangle's Famous Chicken and Biscuits at 1014 Edgefield Road, authorities said.
Nearly five hours after the shootings, authorities from the North Augusta Department of Public Safety, the Aiken County Sheriff's Office and the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division found the vehicle in the parking lot of the Sleep Inn on Edgefield Road, less than a half-mile from the Huddle House parking lot where Mr. Powell and the Rev. Carter were shot, police said.
Police searched the hotel, but the gunman was not there, authorities said. Canine units and police searched the fields and wooded area behind the hotel, and helicopters flew over the area, but the gunman eluded police.
The suspect is described as extremely dangerous, and anyone who sees him is asked not to approach him and to call a law enforcement office, Chief Wetherington said.
"Everything we can see about this crime at this point is that it is totally random, which makes this individual extremely dangerous," he said. "He has already killed one person, severely wounded two others, and we considered him to be extremely dangerous."
Police went to the area near Interstate 20 and U.S. Highway 25 at 6:13 a.m. after receiving a report that shots were being fired near the Huddle House and Burger King restaurants, Chief Wetherington said.
The gunman had approached Mrs. Davidson in the drive-through lane at Burger King at 100 North Ridge Road and ordered her to surrender her car, he said.
When she refused and drove off, the man fired several shots, hitting Mrs. Davidson in the upper back, he said. She managed to drive to the Depot Service Station at 937 Edgefield Road, where she called for help, he said.
Mrs. Davidson was in good condition at Medical College of Georgia Hospital on Tuesday, Chief Wetherington said.
The gunman ran several hundred yards to the Huddle House parking lot and approached Mr. Powell and the Rev. Carter, the pastor of Little Horse Creek Baptist Church in Graniteville, who were heading inside for coffee, he said.
The gunman shot both men before trying to take one of the men's vehicles, which wouldn't start. He then ran to the Bojangle's and carjacked Ms. Heath's vehicle.
Ms. Heath was unharmed, and the Rev. Carter "seems to be holding his own," Chief Wetherington said.
Mr. Powell and the Rev. Carter were friends of Chief Wetherington. The chiefsaid he used to drink coffee with them at the Huddle House.
Chief Wetherington said that judging from shell casings found at the scene, the weapon used is similar to an AK-47 assault rifle.
Reach Kate Lewis at (706) 823-3215 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Police have described the suspect in the shootings as a white man, 20-25 years old, 5 feet 4 inches to 5 feet 8 inches tall, 140 pounds, with brown eyes, dark eyebrows and sandy brown hair, wearing a heavy multicolored jacket, black or blue ski mask and heavy brogan shoes.
Officers are interested in speaking with anyone who picked up a white man near U.S. Highway 25 at Interstate 20 between 1 and 11 p.m. Tuesday. Call North Augusta Public Safety at (803) 279-2121.