First Posted: 11/1/2009
Four Surry County men are dead in what Mount Airy police say may be the largest mass killing in the citys history.
Their presumed assailant, Marcos Chavez Gonzalez, was still on the loose Sunday night, considered by police to be armed and dangerous.
Authorities are not releasing the names of the victims, nor much information surrounding the killings. Mount Airy Police Chief Dale Watson said Sunday night the four were all shot multiple times by a high powered rifle, possibly an assault rifle, although he would not say where the shots struck the men.
The shooting occurred around 2:15 p.m. in the parking lot of Woods TV on Worth Street, less than a mile from the city police station. The store was closed at the time of the shooting.
When officers arrived on the scene Watson said they found four Hispanic males suffering from gunshot wounds. Two were pronounced dead on the scene, two others were transported to Northern Hospital of Surry County just across the street from the shooting where they died.
Watson said Gonzalez has been charged with four counts of first degree murder. The chief believes Gonzalez knew the men before Sundays shooting. We dont feel this was a random event, he said, attempting to ease fears of city residents. We do have an idea why (they were shot), but we wont be releasing that.
The chief said he believes Gonzalez acted alone in the shooting and he may be armed with an assault rifle. He was last seen driving a 2003 Ford F350 Super Duty Dually pick up truck. The vehicle is green with brown trim, with North Carolina license plates numbered CV 6157.
The shooting spawned an intense manhunt in the city and surrounding Surry County. At one point in the late afternoon just off of North Carolina Route 601, police surrounded a vehicle and detained two men from the truck. Watson said they were released and were not involved in the shooting, but had been stopped because their vehicle matched the description of the one witnesses said Gonzalez allegedly drove away from the scene.
He said the State Bureau of Investigation and the Surry County Sheriffs Office have both been involved with the case, and alerts have been sent out to surrounding jurisdictions in North Carolina and Virginia.
Police Captain Alan Freeman said Gonzalez, who is 29, does have some criminal history, though he and the chief did not elaborate during a press briefing Sunday night.
Watson said there were roughly a dozen witnesses to the shooting, some of whom just happened to be in the area, but others who knew the victims and may have been there with Gonzalez and the men who were shot. He would not elaborate on the witnesses, other than to say they were all forthcoming with information that has turned out to be helpful in the investigation.
The last homicide in Mount Airy was July 3, when a city man was stabbed to death. Watson, who just assumed the chiefs post Oct. 1 after serving for 12 years in other capacities with the city police force, said he believes this is the largest mass killing ever in Mount Airy.
Weve never had a killing of this number, Freeman added.
The chief said anyone who sees Gonzalez, or knows of his whereabouts, should call 911 and then phone the Mount Airy Police Department at 786-3535.
John Peters is the editor for The Mount Airy News. He can be reached at [email protected] or at 719-1931.