Saturday, April 20, 2024

Suspect in multiple shootings, WB assault, Market Street chase killed by police

A Friday assault that occurred at a residence on Scotch Bonnet Lane in Wrightsville Beach is connected to two shootings from the previous night. The suspect was located and killed by law enforcement after opening fire on officers. (Port City Daily/Brenna Flanagan)

NEW HANOVER COUNTY — Four seemingly unrelated acts of violence coincided with the death of the alleged suspect Friday.

READ MORE: Female shot multiple times in drive-by, suspect still at large

William Brent Gilmore, 35, was shot and killed on Market Street after opening fire on local law enforcement after 1 p.m. on Aug. 18. Three New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office deputies and one Wilmington Police Department officer fired back at the suspect, who was pronounced dead at the scene.

The two agencies were collaborating with the Wrightsville Beach Police Department on investigating a string of incidents that took place over the last 24 hours, from a woman being shot five times near Roland-Grise Middle School to the assault of another victim in Wrightsville Beach.

“We have reason to believe at this early stage, [they] are actually the work of one individual, now deceased at the hands of law enforcement,” District Attorney Ben David said at a press conference Friday afternoon.

The acts of violence began late Thursday afternoon, according to law enforcement. WPD responded to two locations where multiple shots were fired, one on Dixie Avenue and another on Lake Avenue.

Shots were fired into an occupied home at 208 Dixie Avenue, though no one was hurt, around 5:30 p.m. Thursday. David said 9-millimeter shell casings were found on scene, indicating at least seven rounds fired.

At 6:25 p.m., a 54-year-old woman was shot multiple times while walking her dog in the 4200 block of Lake Avenue — a home behind her was struck as well. According to police, a vehicle slowed down, opened fire, and the woman sustained at least five gunshot wounds; 9 millimeter shell casings were found at that scene as well.

The victim was taken to Novant New Hanover Regional Medical Center with serious injuries.

A white sedan with front-end damage was caught on surveillance leaving the scene and was later seen on video after police canvassed the neighborhood. Law enforcement tied the incident back to the suspect, who was also caught on camera trading vehicles in the Market Street area.

Friday around 12:35 p.m., officers from New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office and Wrightsville Beach Police Department responded to 911 calls at the Holiday Inn Resort Lumina in Wrightsville Beach.

“It was confusing whether or not there were actually shots being fired and exactly where the shots were being fired, and whether or not anyone was injured,” Wrightsville Beach Chief David Squires said at the press conference.

When officers arrived at the scene, they found shell casings at Scotch Bonnet Lane, closest to the beach entrance and in the driveway of a home, indicating a recent shooting. Squires said a car was parked in a driveway with its doors open.

They learned a female victim was zip-tied and assaulted there. The woman, who was known to clean the home on Scotch Bonnet, was called to unlock the residence to let in exterminators, according to law enforcement. She brought along her children and another child, and upon arrival, told officers a vehicle was parked in the driveway without a license plate.

“However, she did not see this as suspicious,” Squires said. “She thought at the worst it might be somebody getting some free parking.”

Based on her testimony, law enforcement said an unknown man approached her for assistance to get into a storage room to recover his keys. He then shoved her into that room, tied her up and assaulted her.

Squires reported the children came to check on her.

“There was some confusion, and the door opened and there was a run-for-your-life [situation] and several people ran from this offender,” Squires recalled.

Several citizens were able to help on the beach, with one citizen describing to law enforcement what was assumed to be the offender’s vehicle: a black sedan with no license plate.

“Because we work in a regional radio system, [the car description] was able to be broadcast very quickly, and to be picked up by both sheriff’s deputies and Wilmington PD,” Squires said.

Thereafter, other agencies helped locate the vehicle on Market Street. A WPD officer performed a pit maneuver, an immobilization technique, at Market Street and Eastwood Road to stop the vehicle.

The suspect got away, according to WPD Chief Donny Williams, with one WPD police car ending up in a retention pond. The suspect’s vehicle then crashed into a civilian’s car at the Market Street and Lennon Drive intersection. 

Additional cars were damaged, but there were no life-threatening injuries at the scene, David said.

The suspect exited the car on Market Street and fired shots at law enforcement, who then fired back several times. No officers or members of the public were injured during the gunfire along the busy corridor.

“He decided that he wanted to get into a gunfight, and I’m extremely proud of the deputies, the three deputies and a police officer who acted heroically and went and eliminated the threat,” Sheriff Ed McMahon said.

Gilmore was declared deceased at the scene.

David said authorities have no reason to believe anyone is in danger. 

“It is always a tragedy when life is lost,” he said. “But it’s also sometimes necessary in the performance of duties.”

David said he is typically not as detailed with the media immediately after an incident occurs. However, the community concern raised from the surrounding crimes, as well as the low probability the case will ever enter court, led the agencies to offer more.

The DA has tuned over the case to the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation to determine if the use of force from officers was justified. The SBI plans on collecting physical evidence from all crime scenes to test altogether.

“It is the eyes and ears of this community working in concert with the professionals behind me that allow us to stay safe,” David said. “I don’t know how many times I’ve said that, but when we see something, we need to say something, and it is only by getting information to the professionals at an early stage that can allow us to do our jobs as effectively, as I believe it was done here today.”

When the SBI investigation concludes, David said he would offer a more detailed summary of the events.

[The piece was updated after publication upon the DA’s office confirming the name of the suspect.]

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