Clinton, N.C. — A high-speed chase and shootout early Monday in Clinton sent six people to the hospital, including a husband and wife whom authorities said were innocent victims in the chaos.
Clinton Police Chief Jay Tilley said the incident started as a dispute between two groups of people at a "backyard club" and ended with one party chasing the other, a violent crash and gunfire about 4:30 a.m. on N.C. Highway 24, near the overpass of U.S. 421.
One of the cars slammed into a utility pole, causing a widespread power outage in the area. The power was restored by noon, but the roadway remained closed as authorities continued to investigate the scene.
Tilley said the parties were chasing each other when the first car rammed the back of a black pickup truck occupied by a couple who "were going home this morning and happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time."
The impact flipped the truck onto its side and into the utility pole.
When the second group arrived, Tilley said, they began exchanging gunfire with the first.
"We don't have crime like this very often," Tilley said. "Being involved in a major crash and then the next thing you find yourself – not only are you in this crash – but you're in the middle of a shootout. I'm not sure I can think of a worse experience for a motorist."
"I've seen some major accidents here, but nothing like this," said Bobby Ammons, who lives nearby.
The couple – identified as Ray and Cassandra Cuvilje of Harrells – along with four others were taken to Sampson Regional Hospital with injuries.
Ray Cuvilje was treated and released. His wife was transferred to WakeMed, where she was in critical condition. Investigators said Cassandra Cuvilje had to be cut from the truck.
The extent of the other injuries wasn't immediately known. Tilley said the Cuviljes were not shot, but two people involved in the chase were.
Police are still searching for the occupants of the second vehicle, who fled the scene.
The State Bureau of Investigation is assisting with the case.
Authorities said more details will be released when they become available.