Shots fired, pedestrian struck by SUV in downtown Bluffton disturbance

rlurye@islandpacket.comFebruary 20, 2014 

Police are searching for an armed man who ran from the scene of a disturbance Thursday afternoon in Bluffton in which a pedestrian was run over by a sport utility vehicle.

Officers were called to a residence at 1238 May River Road about 3:30 p.m. in connection with a disturbance involving about 20 or 30 people in which shots were fired, said Capt. Joseph Manning of the Bluffton Police Department, which is leading the investigation.

Police learned a gray SUV had run over a pedestrian before striking the residence, Manning said.

The pedestrian was taken to a local hospital, where he was treated and interviewed by police, Manning said. His condition was unknown late Thursday.

A resident of Able Street said officers came to her door asking if she'd seen a black man dressed in a white tank top and gray pants. The officers told her the man was about 6 feet tall.

Investigators set up a perimeter extending to the Bluffton Parkway and Burnt Church Road to search for the suspect, who was last seen running through a yard between Pin Oak Street and Able Street, carrying a black handgun, Manning said.

More information on the shooting was not immediately available, including whether shots were fired into or out of the vehicle and whether the driver intentionally struck the victim. Beaufort County Sheriff's Office deputies and S.C. Highway Patrol troopers remained on the scene with Bluffton police through the afternoon, awaiting warrants to search the SUV and the home that was hit, Manning said.

One man was handcuffed by officers and driven from the scene, but Manning said police did not know the identity of the driver. No charges had been filed as of 6:30 p.m.

Two schools were locked down following the incident, said Beaufort County School District spokesman Jim Foster.

At Red Cedar Elementary School, the temporary lockdown affected about 60 students and 60 staff members. All the students had been picked up by about 6 p.m., Foster said.

At Michael C. Riley Elementary School, most students and staff had already left for the day. However, one bus carrying 13 students was turned back when its route crossed into the police perimeter, Foster said.

Parents picked up those children from the school, he said.

At the scene, several residents said they were surprised a shooting took place in their quiet neighborhood.

June Simoneaux, owner of Bluffton Spirit House, was at her business when she heard two shots from the neighboring cul-de-sac.

"It's very unusual for our own town to have this," she said.

However, one longtime property owner on May River Road who declined to identify himself said he has had trouble in the area in the past.

"They think they need to resolve everything with guns," the man said. "They can't talk like humans."

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