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Suspect in custody in Nash courthouse shooting

One suspect was in custody Tuesday evening following a morning shooting outside the Nash County Courthouse in Nashville that left two men wounded, Sheriff Dick Jenkins said.

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NASHVILLE, N.C. — One suspect was in custody Tuesday evening following a morning shooting outside the Nash County Courthouse in Nashville that left two men wounded, Sheriff Dick Jenkins said.

Ontarius Montrae Lewis, 23, who Jenkins said was the gunman in the 11 a.m. shooting, was charged with attempted murder.

Lewis was on supervised probation after serving time in federal prison for possessing a stolen 9mm semi-automatic pistol, according to court documents.

Authorities were still searching for Demond Levar Morris, 36, and had issued an arrest warrant charging him with attempted murder. Jenkins didn't disclose Morris' alleged role in the shooting but said authorities were searching for a light-colored car.

One man was shot in his hand and leg and ran inside the courthouse, where he collapsed near the metal detectors, the sheriff said. The second man ran around to the north side of the building and was shot in the back, he said.

Family members identified the victims as Donte'a Evans and Lamar Ricks. Both men were taken to Nash General Hospital and were then airlifted to Vidant Medical Center in Greenville, and Nash General officials said they were alert and in stable condition when they were transferred.

"I'm just praying he's OK. I'm just praying he's OK," said Tammy Daniel, Evans' aunt. "People are just so mean. I have no clue (why he was shot). He don't bother nobody. He's a good person."

Evans was scheduled to appear in court this week on charges of possession of a firearm by a felon and carrying a concealed weapon, according to court records. It's unclear whether his case was connected to the shooting.

Jenkins said Evans and Ricks were targeted and knew their assailants.

Investigators haven't determined a motive for the shooting, Jenkins said, calling it a senseless crime.

"Nobody can benefit out of anything like this," he said.

But Tamiko Jenkins, a cousin of Lewis, said authorities have the wrong man. She said Lewis was at the courthouse earlier in they day, but not when the shooting started.

"I was with him all day," she said. "When that stuff happened out there, we were at WalMart."

Witnesses said the shooting turned downtown Nashville into a chaotic scene.

"We heard like pow, pow, pow, pow, pow," said Judy Winstead, who works nearby. "So, I went up and locked the door, and I saw people running everywhere and cops all over the place."

"There was a man down on the side street next to the courthouse," said Marie Hinkle, who works across the street from the courthouse with domestic violence group My Sister's House. "People ran out from the courthouse. They were screaming."

"There was a lady just standing there on the front of the courthouse just screaming and jumping up and down," Winstead said. "We thought she had been shot, but she hadn't. She was just scared because the guy had come up by her and shot."

Lockdown produces anxiety in small town

Law enforcement officers swarmed the quiet Nash County seat for several hours, searching for two men in the shooting. A North Carolina State Highway Patrol helicopter scanned the area from the sky, and K-9 officers were seen searching a wooded area.

The State Bureau of Investigation, state correctional officers, Alcohol Law Enforcement agents and Nashville and Rocky Mount police officers also took part in the manhunt. Officers blocked the streets into downtown Nashville and stopped cars and searched people moving through the area as part of the manhunt.

Many offices near the courthouse were locked down until early Tuesday afternoon. Nashville Elementary School, Nash Central Middle School and the W.L. Green Administrative Facility were locked down until 1:45 p.m.

The lockdowns and law enforcement presence were something local residents had seen on television – happening in other cities but not in their own town.

"I went out there and was watching for a little while. You can't really make heads or tails of what's going on. You just see the helicopters flying around," said Grace Lucas, who runs Alice's Beauty Shop across the street from the courthouse.

Lucas said she was doing Suzy Todd's hair when they heard the shots and saw one of the suspects run by the salon's door.

The two women hurried outside to help a woman who was paralyzed with fear on the courthouse steps, bringing her back to the salon to comfort her.

"She was just standing in front of a column like she was in a bad dream, you know, like you can't holler, you can't scream, you can't run," Lucas said.

Even after the lockdown was lifted, Todd said she felt anxious.

"It's an uneasy feeling right now," she said. "I hope it doesn't ever happen again. It's just very scary for a lot of people."

"You hear about it in Rocky Mount just down the road, but for it to be this close to home, it's like Nashville will be forever changed," Lucas said.


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