Authorities say they have arrested a man who shot two other men outside the front door of the Nash County Courthouse on Tuesday morning.
Nash County Sheriff Richard Jenkins did not release the suspect’s name or provide a motive for the shooting, but he said the two victims were targeted.
“Any shooting is senseless,” Jenkins said. “This is even more senseless because it happened in front of a courthouse.”
The victims, Donte’a Evans, 34, and Lamar Ricks, 31, were first transported to Nash General Hospital, before they were airlifted to Vidant Health in Greenville, said Nash General spokesman Jeff Hedgepeth.
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Hedgepeth said Evans and Ricks were both listed in serious, but stable condition. Jenkins said he did not think their injuries were life-threatening.
The Nash County 911 Center was alerted about the shootings at 11:09 a.m. by a sheriff’s deputy who was working at the courthouse, said Bryant Fisher, director of the county 911 center.
The Nash County Sheriff’s Office said it was searching for two men they described as “armed and dangerous.” Jenkins said later that they still think the shooter had an accomplice and that he had not yet been found.
Witnesses said a lone shooter – a man wearing a burgundy-striped shirt and burgundy-colored hat – crossed West Washington Street toward the courthouse and fired at two men standing among a crowd on the front steps.
A woman who lives in Nash County said the gunman turned to her and said “Hello,” before turning away and firing a handgun at the men who had just stepped out of the courthouse. One of the shooting victims ran inside the building after being struck by gunfire. Witnesses say the second victim was hit on the side of the building, near North Drake Street.
The people who witnessed the shooting all declined to give their names for fear of retribution. They reported hearing five gunshots.
The witnesses said the man appeared to be waiting for the victims to come out of the courthouse.
Jenkins said one of the victims was shot in the hand and leg and ran back inside the courthouse. The other victim was hit in the back as he ran around the east side of the building, Jenkins said.
Jenkins said that the shooter appeared to know who he was trying to hit.
Both of the shooting victims have impressive criminal histories. Evans was in court Tuesday on charges of carrying a concealed weapon and possession of a firearm by a felon. He has violence-related criminal convictions dating back to 1997, when he was charged with possession of a firearm by a minor. He was sentenced to nearly four years in prison in 2001 when he was convicted of assault with a deadly weapon inflicting serious injury. Evans was originally charged with attempted murder, but agreed to plead guilty to the lesser charge, court records show.
A charge of assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill inflicting serious injury was filed in 2005 against Evans in Edgecombe County. The charges were dropped after “seven key witnesses for the state” could not be found, state records show.
Evans also has convictions for assault with a deadly weapon, discharging a firearm in the city limits and assault on a female, state records show.
Police, sheriff’s deputies and State Highway Patrol troopers swarmed around the courthouse in the aftermath of the shooting, blocking roads around downtown.
The main entrances to the Nash County administration buildings, one block east of the courthouse, were locked, with no one being allowed to leave or enter the buildings. Three schools, Nashville Elementary, Nash Central Middle, and the W.L. Green Alternative School, in Nashville were also put on lock-down as a precaution, according to the Nash-Rocky Mount School system.