Durham Police launched a search Sunday for three men they believe might be involved with a quadruple homicide that occurred Saturday night in a quiet town house complex on the city's south side.
Four men were found dead inside a town house at 2222 Alpine Road. All died of gunshot wounds, police said.
Two other men found at the town house were wounded. They were rushed to Duke University Hospital. One remained in serious condition Sunday; the other was treated and released, police said.
A Durham police detective classified all six men as victims, none of them suspects. The names of those shot have not been released, pending the notification of next of kin. SBI agents were at the scene Sunday assisting the local officers.
Mayor Bill Bell said that investigators suspect the killings could be drug-related.
Police officers responded to a 911 call reporting the sound of multiple gunshots at the Breckenridge subdivision at 9:44 p.m. Saturday. The first officer on the scene found a man sitting outside the town house bleeding from his face. Inside the town house, officers found four bodies and the other wounded man.
Police said three men were seen running from the area after the shots were heard.
A cluster of Breckenridge residents stood outside the scene Sunday morning, expressing disbelief that such an event could happen in their neighborhood, located less than a mile from Hope Valley Country Club. A police database showed there had been no violent crimes in the area within the past two years.
Yellow crime-scene tape surrounded a beige, two-story town house and four cars. Through the open front door, technicians could be seen collecting evidence. What appeared to be blood was smeared on an inside wall. A pair of tan work boots sat on the stoop with discarded clothing, next to a sign warning intruders that the home was protected by a burglar alarm.
The inhabitants of the town house were said to have recently rented the unit after its owner moved to Florida. Most of the homes on the street are owner-occupied, residents said.
Maureen Lloyd, listed on tax records as the owner of the town house, did not respond to a message left with a relative in Panama City, Fla. Neighbors in Durham said Lloyd told them she performed criminal background checks on perspective tenants before leasing the property.
Kelly Mullins, who lives two doors away from the scene of the shootings, said she heard a few loud thuds Saturday night but figured it was a neighbor moving furniture. She didn't suspect anything was wrong until the police came.
Mullins said that she had met at least one of the men living in the house and that they appeared to be young professionals or college students. Though Mullins said she had noticed a lot of people coming and going, she never suspected that the inhabitants might have been involved in the drug trade.
"We've never had anything like this here," she said. "This is an aberration. If it can happen here, it can happen anywhere."
Toll in '05: 33 killings
Durham had the highest murder rate per capita of any large North Carolina city in 2004, according to FBI crime data.
Saturday's quadruple killing makes a total of 33 homicides within the Durham city limits thus far in 2005, outpacing last year's total of 30 with six weeks to spare. Three other killings have occurred in unincorporated areas of Durham County.
Many of the homicides involved gang members and drug-fueled violence, Bell reiterated Sunday.
He said law-abiding Durham residents should feel safe, though he acknowledged the city has a crime problem that police and local government leaders are struggling to get their arms around.
"This appears to be another senseless tragedy, but it was not random," Bell said of Saturday's shootings. "They [the killers] knew who they were after."
Durham police are asking anyone with information about the shootings to call the Criminal Investigations Division at 560-4440 or CrimeStoppers at 683-1200.
(Staff writer Jessica Rocha contributed to this report.)