STAR, N.C. – A gunman who opened fire at a North Carolina lumber company targeted four of his co-workers with a shotgun Friday, killing three of them and critically injuring the other person, police said.
Ronald Dean Davis went home after the rampage at the warehouse and shot himself in the head, leaving him critically wounded, Montgomery County Sheriff Dempsey Owens said. Davis, 50, was described as disgruntled, but the sheriff didn't say exactly what he was upset over.
"He knew who he was after. He knew who he was going to see," he said.
When a sheriff's deputy arrived at Davis' house in Ether, in the central part of the state, they knocked on the door and no one answered. A deputy peered through the window and saw Davis sitting on the couch "with his head hung down."
They entered and found him breathing, but with a single gunshot wound to his head, Owens said.
A handgun and a six-page note were found nearby. Police did not release what the note said.
"It goes into some details about some things. But really it rambles on," Owens said.
About 16 other employees were at the McBride Lumber Co. when Davis started firing.
"It appears he went into the building with a loaded 12-gauge shotgun, went up to these four individuals and shot each one of the four," Owens said.
The sheriff declined to release the names of the victims, saying investigators were still in the process of contacting their families. He said other than failing to validate a deer, Davis didn't have a criminal history.
"This is indeed a dark day in Montgomery County," he said.
The company's founder, Dorothy McBride, said she was shocked.
"Oh, my God, I can't believe it," said McBride, who's no longer involved in the business. "I just can't talk about it right now. I have to find out more."
A family-owned business, the company makes pallets and treated wood for furniture and other products. A person who answered the phone at the business said they had no comment.
Owens said it took 30 minutes from the time law enforcement received a 911 call about the shootings to when they found Davis' body. People in the community helped identified the shooter.
"It's a quiet area," Owens said of Davis' neighborhood. He was police chief of Star for 10 years before he was sheriff. "When I was chief, we could solve cases pretty fast because people would help us out."
The entire community is grieving, neighbors said. Star is a flyspeck on the map, with about 800 people living about 75 miles east of Charlotte.
One of Davis' neighbors said she was in disbelief.
"This never happens around here. This is a great place to live," Charlotte Epps said. "It's a tragedy."
Neighbor Beverly Barber said she knew something was wrong when her sister called her and said to look out the window.
"There were flashing police lights everywhere," she said.
Davis lived in a house in a wooded area across the street from her.
"I would see him around in his pickup. We never had problems with him. This is something you only see in the movies. This isn't supposed to happen here," Barber said.