Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Witnesses say suspect acted erratically prior to exchanging gunfire with Leland police officer

Leland Police and Brunswick County Sheriff, having just removed police tape at the scene on Saturday morning.

LELAND — A Leland police officer and a Brunswick County sheriff’s deputy were the only signs of law enforcement left at the scene Saturday morning where gunfire rang out overnight, injuring a Leland officer and killing a male suspect.

According to a report from Brunswick County dispatch, a call came in about the incident at 8:50 p.m. in the 1000 block of Bridgeport Way.

While little has been released about the incident, and what led to the subsequent shooting death of the suspect, neighbors in the Windsor Park neighborhood were walking the sidewalks Saturday morning sharing what they witnessed late Friday night.

Neighbors said a white vehicle drove through the neighborhood erratically, before pulling into the end of the road, which ended into a cul-de-sac. The vehicle was even described to have driven through one man’s yard, nearly striking his home.

Raymond Derr, a resident of Windsor Park, said he and his wife were outside walking their dog after a gathering with friends and heard the sounds of the car.

“I heard this terrible screeching, the girls [Derr’s wife and friends] were going, ‘oh my god, call the police.’ He came real close to us. He went by here in a white car, stopped at the stop sign, [and] all at once threw it in reverse,” Derr said.”[He] almost hit the place, the corner of our building here, and went back towards the pond.”

Derr said the car traveled in reverse along the length of Bridgeport Way and then idled in the cul-de-sac with the headlights pointing toward the homes. But the vehicle did not remain stationary long.

“Before the police came, he started back this way. He came in and pulled in across the street. He backed up and went back again … just at that time the policeman shows up,” Derr said. “The policeman throws his lights on, follows him back … just a few minutes, we hear this ungodly shooting.”

“It was surreal. It was terrible. Because you know there’s a policeman involved,” Derr said.

Derr’s wife and friends got on the phone and called 911 again.

Crime scene tap left behind on Bridgeport Way. Photo by Christina Haley.
Crime scene tap left behind on Bridgeport Way. Photo by Christina Haley.

“Then they came from all over,” he said. “We’re pretty shook up here. It’s a quiet neighborhood.”

Dennis Trowell, another resident in the Windsor Park neighborhood, recalled a small four-door sedan – possibly a Dodge – pulling into the neighborhood. Trowell also referred to the driver as ‘he’ but could not provide any other description of the suspect. Like Derr, he also described the vehicle driving erratically in reverse down the street.

“He drove by, turned around, we thought he was lost,” Trowell said. “Then, he just threw it in reverse hard. There was an awful noise, and the car took off. It trashed some bushes and almost hit a transformer.” 

Trowell said the car drove backwards to the cul-de-sac at the end of Bridgeport Way, where it idled.

“He sat there, 15-20 minutes. Just sitting there. This was around 7:30 p.m., or probably a little closer to 8 p.m.,” he said.

Trowell said that around 8:30 p.m. the car then turned around a second time, driving back towards Amber Pines. Trowell says this is when he believes his neighbors, whose yard the vehicle had passed through, called 911.

“He turned around, he pulled into a lot, at one point he was sitting there with his headlights pointed at the house. We didn’t know what he was going to do.”

At this point, Trowell said a police car arrived on the scene, pulling to the intersection of Amber Pines Drive.

“He saw the police and took off back towards the cul-de-sac. Not sure where he thought he was going,” Trowell said. “The police car chased him down the street with his blue lights on.”

Trowell says he retreated to his house but heard the ensuing gunfire.

“There was two different guns firing,” he said. “It was about a dozen shots. About eight shots and then a hesitation, and then four or so more shots.”

State and local law enforcement have not yet released any official reports. According to State Bureau of Investigation (SBI) Special Agent in Charge Erik A. Hooks, the SBI is continuing an investigation, independent of the Leland Police Department, and will deliver its report to Brunswick County District Attorney Jon David.

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