BY GLENN SMITH
Cpl. Marcus Stiles declared dead. Gunman vowed to 'finish it' Pfc. Lonnie Wells wounded, then executed
MONCKS CORNER - Gary Douglas stepped from the front porch of his mobile home with a shotgun in his hands and a chilling message for the two policemen in his yard.
"Y'all started this s---," a neighbor said Douglas shouted from the Connie Lane residence. "Now I'm gonna finish it."
Moments later, police Cpl. Marcus Stiles lay wounded on the ground. Fellow officer Pfc. Lonnie Wells took cover behind a cruiser and fired back at Douglas, who kept coming. Douglas had two long guns with him, witnesses said.
Terry Dangerfield watched the scene unfold Sunday afternoon from her kitchen window. She kept praying that one of Wells' bullets would find its mark before Douglas reached him.
But as Wells tried to take another shot, Douglas fired again. The blast hit the officer's shoulder and he fell backward, Dangerfield said.
"Douglas peeked out from the car and looked at him there," she said. "Douglas said something to him and then he pulled the trigger and shot (Wells) right in the head. I screamed with all my might. ... He just turned around and walked back toward his house."
Wells, 40, died where he was shot. Stiles, 26, also was shot in the head. He died Monday at Trident Medical Center, Berkeley County Coroner Glenn Rhoad said.
As this small town and its 25-man police department struggled to deal with their grief, state investigators worked to piece together the jumble of events that led to the shootings and ended with a frantic police chase and Douglas' death.
The violence began at CW Laundromat, a small, weathered building along U.S. Highway 17A around 3:30 p.m. Witnesses saw a man and a woman arguing, and there were reports of a possible abduction. A red Dodge pickup was seen driving away. The tag came back to Douglas, a 51-year-old electrician, authorities said.
Douglas drove back to his home, a tan double-wide mobile home that backs up to the woods at the end of Connie Lane. He came roaring down the dirt road, sliding sideways as he took the turn toward his home, witnesses said.
His neighbors were used to Douglas speeding up and down the strip, and they had warned their children to stay clear of his path. In this tight-knit neighborhood, where most families are kin to one another, Douglas was known as an abrasive loner, a sour man who kept to himself and refused to acknowledge even a friendly wave. An avid hunter, he often spent time shooting his guns in the woods near his home, where he also kept hunting dogs, they said.
"He was a very hateful man," neighbor Ann Crouse said. "He was just a horrible person."
Douglas had lived there for well over a decade, and Connie Lane was actually named after his first wife. They had divorced many years ago and Douglas had remarried in 1998, only to divorce again. In 2000, then-wife Jennifer Douglas was granted an order of protection from Douglas, accusing him of mental and physical abuse. "He scares me a lot," she wrote in an affidavit.
Neighbors said he had been with a string of women over the years, but none stayed around long. The woman he returned home with Sunday was his latest girlfriend, but they were having problems, neighbors said.
Wells and Stiles decided to visit Douglas' home to make sure everything was OK. One of Wells' neighbors was riding with him to get a taste of law enforcement work. Stiles had his girlfriend with him as a passenger, police said.
Suddenly, they found themselves in a battle zone, as Douglas opened fire with a shotgun, police said.
At the time, about 10 children were playing outside not far from Douglas' home. Jarrett Smith, a quick-thinking 12-year-old, helped some of the younger children get to safety and then hid with his cousin in a garage.
Terry Dangerfield stood frozen by the window as her husband, Daniel, ran outside to find their 8-year-old son. He found him safe with Jarrett.
At one point, the shooting stopped and Douglas went into his home, possibly to get another gun or more ammunition, witnesses said. Wells' passenger took the opportunity to slip away and run for help, yelling for people to call 911, witnesses said.
Neighbors said the woman thought to be Douglas' girlfriend escaped by following the woods around a pond near his property. It was unclear Monday how Stiles' girlfriend got away.
After the shooting finally stopped, Douglas drove off in Wells' cruiser to make his getaway. Daniel Dangerfield rushed over to see if he could help the officers. Stiles lay on the ground, struggling to breathe, his torso peppered with buckshot. Wells didn't move.
"I knew he was gone," Dangerfield said.
Moments later, Berkeley County sheriff's deputies got behind the stolen cruiser and gave chase. When they determined Douglas was alone, they rammed the cruiser several times in an effort to "take the vehicle out," a police report stated. At one point, between Perry Hill Road and Heatley Street, the deputies struck the vehicle and forced it to stop.
Deputy Clifford C. McElvogue fired several rounds at the stolen cruiser, but Douglas drove off, deputies said. Another deputy rammed the vehicle again, but Douglas continued down U.S. Highway 17A before finally crashing the cruiser through a fence at the Berkeley Alternative School.
Deputies found him slumped over the console with a shotgun underneath him. Investigators are still trying to determine whether he was killed by police or by a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
When Moncks Corner Police Chief Chad Caldwell got the call, he first assumed it was a mistake. In his six years as police chief, he had not even turned on his blue lights before doing so Sunday.
"I spent all night trying to sort out how this happened," he said. "We're going through a tough time. This is the most heartbreaking thing that can ever occur."
Staff writer Nita Birmingham also contributed to this report. Reach Glenn Smith at 937-5556 or email@example.com.