Carthage, N.C. Mar 29 2009
wral.com — A gunman walked into a Moore County nursing home Sunday morning, fatally shooting eight people and injuring three others, including a police officer, Carthage Police Chief Chris McKenzie said.
The shooting happened around 10 a.m. at Pinelake Health and Rehab Center, 801 Pinehurst Ave., a 110-bed rehabilitation, nursing and Alzheimer’s care facility in Carthage.
McKenzie did not offer a motive for the crime or say what the suspect’s relationship to the facility might be. He said seven of the deceased were patients and one was an employee of the facility.
“The shooter entered the facility heavily armed and began shooting at people in wheelchairs,” Sen. Harris Blake, R-Moore told WRAL News.
While meeting with families Sunday at First Baptist Church, 108 McNeill St. in Carthage, Blake said he knew two patients at the Pinelake Health and Rehab Center. Neither person was injured, he said.
The police officer, who was the first to arrive at the scene, was shot in the leg, McKenzie said. The officer shot the gunman who was transported to the Moore Regional Hospital for treatment.
“It’s a horrible event in any size town, particularly though when you deal with a small town such as Carthage. It’s hard. This is my town, this is my small town. I was born and raised here. So yeah, I take it to heart a little bit. All you can do is move forward,” McKenzie said.
Multiple law enforcement agencies, including Carthage Police Department, Moore County Sheriff’s Office and State Bureau Investigation, are investigating.
Numerous calls to the nursing home were not answered.
Sky 5 video of the scene shows nearly a dozen law enforcement vehicles and yellow tape roping off what appears to be the front of the building.
Pinelake, which opened in 1993, recently got a five-star rating, the highest possible, from the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which oversees the federal insurance programs.
The gunman was also injured before he was apprehended by police after the 10 a.m. shooting at Pinelake Health and Rehab in the town of Carthage, Police Chief Chris McKenzie told several television stations. A police officer was also hurt.
“It’s a horrible event in any size town, particularly, though, when you deal with a small town such as Carthage,” McKenzie said. “It’s hard. This is my home, my small town. I was born and raised here so, yeah, I take it to heart a little bit. All you can do is move forward.”
Gretchen Kelly, spokeswoman at FirstHealth Moore Regional Hospital in nearby Pinehurst, said six people were brought to the hospital from the nursing home. Kelly said two of the injured died at the hospital, but it wasn’t clear if those two were among the six initially reported dead by police.
Kelly said two other patients had been discharged, while two were still being treated. She wouldn’t release further details on the injuries or conditions of those hospitalized.
McKenzie said the gunman wasn’t a patient at the nursing home, located about 60 miles southwest of Raleigh, but didn’t offer any further details on what the gunman’s motive might have been.
Late Sunday afternoon, authorities appeared to be conducting a search of the nursing home’s parking lot, which they had blocked off with yellow police tape. Among the items they found was a camouflaged-colored rifle or shotgun, which was leaning against the side of a Jeep Cherokee.
The road leading to the home was filled with parked cars, both of police and relatives of those living at Pinelake. Howard McMillian, of Lakeview, said he raced to the scene as soon as he heard about the shooting. His 56-year-old sister lives at the nursing home, and McMillian said his brother had gotten a call from officials saying she was unharmed.
“I know she’s real nervous,” McMillian said. “I just want to make sure she’s OK.”
A nursing home Web site said the facility that opened in 1993 has 110 beds, including 20 for those with Alzheimer’s disease.
Calls to the nursing home by The Associated Press rang unanswered Sunday, and McKenzie and several state law enforcement agencies didn’t immediately return messages or declined to comment. Police planned a news conference for later Sunday afternoon.
Carthage is a small town of roughly 1,800 people in the North Carolina Sandhills, an area popular among retirees and home to several noted golf courses, including the famed Pinehurst resort and its No. 2 course that regularly hosts the U.S. Open.
Pinelake Health and Rehab was last inspected in May, and the review resulted in an overall five-star — or “much above average” — rating from federal Medicaid officials.