Clinton police are searching for a suspect or suspects responsible for a shooting spree that damaged a number of business windows and doors Tuesday night and into the wee hours of Wednesday morning.
Police chief Jay Tilley said preliminary investigative work indicates that the person or persons responsible for the vandalisms were likely using an air rifle or possibly a paint ball gun to cause the damage.
In all eight businesses and two automobiles were damaged in the shooting spree. No one was injured.
Windows or doors were hit at Sweet Frog, Lowe’s and Papa John’s in Coharie Plaza, Piggly Wiggly in Jordan Shopping Center, McDonalds on Southeast Boulevard, Cintas on Warsaw Road, Tropicana on Warsaw Road and a closed restaurant on Elizabeth Street that is being used this summer for a feeding program. Two automobiles parked in the Walmart lot at Sampson Crossing were also damaged.
The incidents began around 7 p.m. when the Elizabeth Street store was hit and continued, Tilley said, until much later, with McDonalds employees reporting their vandalism just after 1 a.m.
Businesses in Coharie Plaza were struck around 9 p.m. and all, Tilley said, had someone inside the facilities at the time of the vandalisms.
“It looks like someone went on a spree,” Tilley said Wednesday. “The scariest one was at Sweet Frog, because there were people still in the place when they got their window shot out. The same was true at Papa John’s and Lowe’s.
“It looks like an air rifle was used, at least at some of the businesses. At Sylvia Miller’s on West Elizabeth, though, there was evidence found there of a paint gun. We could be looking for multiple suspects. At this point we don’t know.”
But officers, who spent a good bit of Wednesday collecting evidence and looking over video footage from various businesses, do have a person of interest they are currently looking for, someone caught on the footage they reviewed.
That person, Tilley said, is a white male wearing a light blue T-shirt with a tuxedo print on the front, dark shorts and a straight-brimmed cap.
Video footage also showed a dark-colored SUV vehicle, possibly a Suburban in the area, with the subject of interest going into a store from the vehicle.
That footage, Tilley said, was captured from a business that was not among the vandalism victims.
While the police chief stressed that there was no indication any of the crimes were more than vandalism, he acknowledged that the incidents could have been far more serious than they were.
“These vandalisms — all vandalisms — are senseless, but in this case it was also reckless and dangerous with people inside businesses. We could have had some serious injuries from this. We are very fortunate we did not,” Tilley said.
The chief said officers were working to track down additional leads that can lead to an arrest.
Anyone with information about the incidents, the vehicle or the subject of interest is asked to call the Police Department at 910-592-3105.