It was calm at University Suites on Thursday afternoon where a day earlier a Coastal Carolina University student – described as “quiet” and a “good guy” – was found shot to death inside his apartment.
Police were still searching for a suspect and a clue of what led to 21-year-old Craig Gerard Gray, Jr.’s death as some residents packed to leave for an extended weekend away from home.
Everybody’s freaking out over here... They never expected stuff like this to happen here.
Nick Davis, who lives in University Suites
Coastal Carolina student and University Suites resident Nick Davis was packing his car, getting ready to head back home to Charleston on Thursday.
“Everybody’s freaking out over here,” he said. “All three of the other roommates are moving out and my parents are probably going to make me move out too. They never expected stuff like this to happen here.”
Police were called to the University Suites complex on Technology Boulevard just after 7 p.m. Wednesday to find Gray had been shot, according to a news release from the Conway Police Department on Thursday.
Horry County Deputy Coroner Tony Hendrick said Gray was pronounced dead at the scene.
The next day, a small American flag posted outside the apartment stood unfettered by the breeze that ruffled a larger flag next door.
Residents said they were shocked and saddened to hear of Gray’s death, which put them on lockdown for nearly four hours that night.
Davis said his best friend was Gray’s roommate, who “was at my house like 10 minutes before it happened.”
“He left (his place) 10 minutes before it happened and came over here,” he said, motioning to the townhouse unit behind him that stood a stone’s-throw away from Wednesday night’s crime scene. “If he would have been over there, he would have been in the kitchen cooking dinner because he was about to start cooking dinner when he came over here and then that happened.”
Davis said his best friend was still in shock and had already left for Charleston.
“I’ve been thinking about that all day,” Davis said. “It was terrible. It was very, very sad.”
[Craig Gray] was a good guy. He was quiet. He didn’t harm anybody.
Originally of Blythewood, Gray was a sophomore at CCU majoring in computer sciences, according to university spokesman Doug Bell.
“He was a good guy. He was quiet. He didn’t harm anybody,” said University Suites resident Brandon Boyland. “I liked him. We were good friends.”
Boyland lives a few buildings from Gray.
“I was at his house like 40 minutes before it happened,” he said. “It’s pretty sad.”
The news of Gray’s death spread through campus with a message Thursday morning from Deborah Conner, vice president of campus life and student engagement at Coastal Carolina.
“It is with great sadness that we notify you of the death of Craig Gerard Gray,” Conner said, referring any students who may need support to call the school’s counseling services office at 843-349-2305.
But the first sign that something was wrong for those on Technology Boulevard came with flashing blue lights and then a text alert.
Shooting incident near Technology Blvd. Blue in color pick up truck seen leaving the area towards Singleton Ridge Rd. Please stay inside.
CCU text alert
Bell said that the school sent five text alerts Wednesday night. The first one at 7:25 p.m. warned of a “shooting incident near Technology Boulevard.” It said a blue pickup truck had been seen leaving the area towards Singleton Ridge Road and advised people nearby to stay inside.
Davis got the text alert to stay inside but went to the crime scene anyway to be there for his best friend.
A text alert sent two minutes later echoed the advice, “Please stay inside.”
Another message sent at 8:26 p.m. read “Campus does not appear to be in immediate danger. Due to police activity, please stay inside.”
The advised lockdown ended for some at 8:40 p.m. with a message telling students living on campus that they were “free to move about,” while students on Technology Boulevard and Singleton Ridge Road areas were told to “stay inside.”
A last text alert at 11:18 p.m. advised, “Students can return to Technology Blvd/Singleton Ridge areas. Area has been secured.”
Technology Boulevard runs from Singleton Ridge Road, past Horry Georgetown Technical College, to the roundabout at CCU.
Sarah Valletta, a CCU student who lives one building down from where the shooting took place, said that the area is usually “pretty quiet. It was surprising.”
“It’s a very friendly (area),” Bobby Rivers added. “People are always welcoming you to their house like there’s no problem.”
Rivers lives at University Suites but said he wasn’t at home the night of the shooting.
He said his mother received the text alert about the shooting and not being able to reach him, feared it was her son. Rivers said his phone had died. He called her back four hours later, when he returned home and “heard the horrible news.”
Conway police are handling the investigation. Horry County police, the CCU Department of Public Safety and the Horry County Coroner were assisting Conway at the scene Wednesday night. Sgt. Darren Alston with the Conway Police Department said there were very few witnesses at the scene that night.
Police are searching for the suspects, who are unknown at this time and remain at large.
“Our main goal right now is to find that shooter,” Alston said.
Witness statements Wednesday night conflicted over whether one person or two people were seen getting into a vehicle and fleeing the scene, according to Alston.
The events that led up to the shooting were also unknown Thursday evening.
Anyone with information on the incident is asked to call the Conway Police Department at 843-248-1790.
University Suites is a townhouse complex that primarily houses HGTC and CCU students. The apartments are within walking distance to both campuses.
Staff reporter Claire Byun contributed to this story.
Emily Weaver: 843-444-1722; @TSNEmily