Suspects who allegedly murdered a person during an attempted carjacking and committed several armed robberies in South and North Carolina remained on the lam on Thursday afternoon.
Horry County police initially responded to the Longs Food Lion, at 110 E. Hwy 9, at about 10:15 p.m. on Wednesday for a reported homicide and carjacking, Capt. John Harrelson said.
He said one man with a gun confronted an employee in the parking lot and demanded that person to unlock the store. At the same time, two other armed men confronted a person sitting in a vehicle in the parking lot. When the person tried to flee, the suspects fired into the vehicle and killed the victim, Harrelson said.
Authorities said the suspects then stole a gray Nissan Altima with South Carolina license plate PFP140 and fled the scene.
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On Thursday, the Food Lion remained open, though several employees appeared shaken. Food Lion provided a statement after the incident and said no employees were hurt.
“Our focus is on offering our Food Lion associates the support and care they and their families need during this incredibly difficult time. We ask that everyone please respect the privacy of our associates. We appreciate the work of local law enforcement and will continue to support their efforts however we can.”
Soon after the Food Lion incident, Harrelson said there were two other armed robberies in the Loris area — one at the Carolina Inn, of U.S. Highway 701, and a person in a broken down truck on the nearby Fox Bay Road. Police said those crimes were done by the same suspects.
Both of those robberies sites are about a 10-mile drive along S.C. Highway 9 from the Food Lion.
Matt Cavinder lives along Fox Bay Road and said at about 11 p.m. a white man knocked on his door and reported his truck broke down, he was robbed and he needed gas. The victim told Cavinder the suspects wore ski masks and took his phone and other belongings.
The cops arrived shortly after to investigate the scene, he said.
Video surveillance showed the victim’s truck coming to stop on Fox Bay Road. Moments later headlights from a dark-colored sedan approach and the car slowly pulls in front of the truck.
The victim later approached Cavinder’s home to report the robbery.
Police believe the suspects continued to use the same vehicle stolen from the Food Lion. In a release, police described the suspects as black men, but did not provide additional details.
The same suspects are also accused of robbing a Sun-Do Quik Mart in Chadbourn, North Carolina. That store is about 20 miles from the Loris scenes.
A Sun-Do employee who declined to provide his name was behind the counter helping a customer when the suspects enter. The clerk said a gray car pulled into the lot at about 11:30 and rushed into the store with guns drawn.
“The first thing in my mind is to run,” the employee said, and he scurried to a back room.
Video surveillance showed two men — wearing ski masks, black clothes and white gloves — enter the store with handguns. They approach a customer and another person and forced them to the ground at gunpoint by a counter. One of the gunmen grabbed the cash register and yank it to the ground, smashing it open. The suspects left with the register.
An employee at the Carolina Inn said the suspects on the video from the Sun-Do were the same as ones on surveillance robbing the Loris hotel
The gunmen left after a few minutes and the employee said when he didn’t hear people talking he exited from the backroom and called police.
The Horry County Police Department is asking anyone with information related to any of these incidents to call 843-915-TIPS. If you see these individuals or the vehicle, police ask people to not approach them and immediately call 911.
Hannah Strong: 843-444-1765, @HannahLStrong