Innocent victim of drive-by shooting
By Eliot Duke
Dunn Daily Record
LILINGTON — A seemingly random act of violence in a problematic area of Harnett County left a grandmother fighting for her life.
Harnett County Sheriff Wayne Coats on Monday afternoon said a 72-year-old woman suffered a single gunshot wound to the head not far from her home on Bunnlevel-Erwin Road earlier in the day. Emergency responders transported the woman to a Fayetteville hospital where Coats said she was listed in critical condition.
“This has been a tragic morning,” Coats said. “In this case, it’s disturbing and I’m mad. There is no other way to put it other than I’m mad. We had a 72-year-old Black female, an innocent bystander, left her home this morning to do her daily chores, stop at a stop sign and, there’s no other way to put it, two idiots acting foolish just shooting and she got hit in the head. It’s hard to describe the way I feel right now and keep my composure.”
A gunshot wound call came into the sheriff’s office at approximately 10:30 a.m. Deputies arrived on the scene, canvassed the area and found the victim unconscious and still behind the wheel of her pickup truck.
Coats said police are looking for two vehicles believed to be involved in the shooting — a black 4-door sedan and what is thought to be a Mercury Marquee of an undetermined color.
“I’d like to ask anyone who saw this to please call the tip line at 910-893-0140,” said Coats. “She was just an innocent bystander going out to do what 72-year-old people do. For this to happen is disturbing. She was the only one in the vehicle. We will find them. We’re not going to stop. I think she just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
Coats said Monday marked the fifth shooting of 2021 in the area around Bunnlevel-Erwin Road off N.C. Highway 217. On Jan. 14, a man suffered a gunshot wound on Bunnlevel-Erwin Road near Monday’s incident.
Deputies, on April 12, investigated a drive-by shooting into a home on Beaver Dam Road, which runs into Bunnlevel-Erwin. Three days later, HCSO responded to a homicide on Highway 217.
On April 19, 53-year-old Kenneth Wilkins — another innocent bystander — was shot and killed while driving his SUV on the same stretch of road. Wilkins’ vehicle crashed into a home at 4404 Beaver Dam Road. It was riddled with bullets.
“There is a history in that area,” Coats said. “I’m hoping somebody will come forward and be able to give us some information. She was stopped at a stop sign at the Cape Fear Conference Center. It could be road rage, it could be gang-related, it could be drug-related. [The shootings] could be related. We can’t rule that out. The only thing we can confirm is that it was two vehicles involved. We’ve been canvassing the area since all these shootings started. We’ve set up checkpoints out there trying to generate any information and that hasn’t stopped since January.”
Coats said prior shootings in the area were drug or gang related.