WHITEVILLE, N.C. (WECT) – Whiteville resident Norma Gore was just finishing up lunch when she saw the shooting that took place in the parking lot of the Whiteville Walmart.
“We had just finished lunch and we were actually going to head over to Walmart to actually make some purchases,” Gore said. “Not even two steps out of the front door of the restaurant and the first thing I heard was gunshots, so I was definitely alert.”
At first Gore thought it could be civilians exchanging fire, but said it did not come as a surprise when she later found out the U.S. Marshals Service Carolinas Regional Fugitive Task Force was involved. She said she could tell law enforcement involved were well trained based on what she witnessed, and that the Marshals were trying to avoid hitting innocent bystanders.
“You could tell that they were trained just to a great level. I mean I can’t even find the words to describe what level of training that they demonstrated today,” she said.
Marshals were trying to arrest William Dean Hewett, who was wanted for the murder of Brandy Lynn Price. The U.S. Marshals Service said in a release that Hewett pulled out a gun, so the task force opened fire.
District Attorney Jon David said he, Whiteville Police Chief Douglas Ipock, the acting U.S. attorney and U.S. Marshals called for the SBI investigation to maintain public confidence in the process. Multiple agencies are involved and 12 agents from the SBI are working on the case.
Gore’s original plan was to go to Walmart first and then eat lunch, but she is extremely grateful that she and her friend flipped their plans around. She feels like they may have literally dodged a bullet, or bullets, with that one decision.
“On the way here I was saying well maybe we should eat lunch first and then go to Walmart afterwards, so I’m grateful — grateful that we pretty much dodged a bullet or bullets and that no one else got harmed,” Gore said.
Walmart worker Zero Masters also feels thankful this evening. He had just finished up his shift and walked right through the area of the parking lot where the shooting took place. Not even two minutes had passed before he heard gunfire.
“I heard like a lot of banging, a lot of popping and I figured at first it was gunshots, but when I looked up at the other customers no one was reacting to it, so I just figured it was the dump trucks,” Masters said.
It wasn’t until he returned to the parking lot that he realized it was indeed gunfire as there was already a heavy law enforcement presence and a large crime scene.
Courtney Marshall couldn’t believe something like this happened in the small community of Whiteville.
“It was on Facebook at first, you know, that there was a shootout that happened at Walmart—I thought that it was somewhere else,” Marshall said. “So when it said Whiteville Walmart I was like, ‘no… no not where I take my babies to every day just something crazy that never happens down here.’”
The shooting took place around 2:40 Thursday afternoon and the SBI was investigating the scene well into the evening.