Gun accident kills Hilton Head Realtor

April 26, 2011 

A driver with D&M Towing loads a car onto his truck Monday morning outside of Top Dollar Pawn near Mathews Drive on Hilton Head Island. The Sheriff's Office believes the car's owner, Hilton Head Realtor Bill Brannon, died after accidentally shooting himself in the chest while unloading a gun he intended to sell.

SARAH WELLIVER/THE ISLAND PACKET

A long-standing member of Hilton Head Island's real estate community died Monday after apparently shooting himself accidentally outside of a pawn shop, according to the Beaufort County Sheriff's Office.

William "Bill" Brannon, 63, was pronounced dead at Hilton Head Hospital, according to county Deputy Coroner David Ott.

Sheriff's deputies responded to a report of a gunshot victim at about 11:21 a.m. at Top Dollar Pawn at 11 Mathews Drive, Ott said.

Brannon had gone into the shop and told employees he wanted to pawn a gun, said Sgt. Robin McIntosh, Sheriff's Office spokeswoman. Brannon told them he needed to go to his car to retrieve the gun.

Soon after, the employees heard a gunshot and Brannon yell, McIntosh said. They ran to the parking lot to find him lying on the ground near the back of his car with a gunshot wound to the chest, she said.

They called 911 and paramedics arrived shortly afterward and took Brannon to Hilton Head Hospital, Ott said.

He died at 1:25 p.m. at the hospital, Ott said. An autopsy will be performed at the Medical University of South Carolina, he said.

McIntosh said it appears Brannon might have accidentally shot himself while trying to unload the weapon, a 9 mm semiautomatic handgun. Deputies found the gun in the car's open trunk, according to a sheriff's news release.

The investigation is continuing, McIntosh said.

Brannon was a Realtor and broker at Charter One Realty.

He and his wife, Susan, who is the office manager at First Presbyterian Church on Hilton Head, have been a part of the community for nearly 35 years.

"We are in shock and just devastated," said Richard MacDonald, a Charter One Realtor and friend of the couple.

"He knew the island so well. His clients just adored him, and everyone here at the office loved him," MacDonald said.

MacDonald said Brannon was not known to be a gun enthusiast and did not want to speculate on why he might have wanted to pawn the weapon.

Top Dollar Pawn employees could not be reached for comment Monday.

Brannon, who lived with his wife, their son, Alex, and their granddaughter in the Cross Winds neighborhood, was an active church member and well-liked by the congregation, MacDonald said.

"They're both very highly thought of. Susan, who is the 'go-to' person at the church, and their family will be fully supported by church members," said MacDonald, who also is a member of the congregation.

Originally from Sanford, N.C., Brannon attended the University of North Carolina and moved to Hilton Head in the late 1970s.

He worked for various development companies before joining Charter One more than 20 years ago, MacDonald said.

Brannon also was a UNC Tar Heels fan and enjoyed spending time with his granddaughter, he said.

"This is such a small office, and everyone is very close," MacDonald said. "This is a great loss to us."

Funeral arrangements are pending.