2 arrests in double homicide near Wingate campus

slyttle@charlotteobserver.comDecember 5, 2013 

— Two men were arrested overnight in connection with shootings Wednesday evening that killed two men, injured a third, and put the Wingate University campus on lockdown.

No students or staff from the university were involved, authorities say.

Wingate police Chief Donnie Gay said two Marshville men, Daniel Steven Sheerer, 20, and Tony Antwone Knotts, 26, were arrested shortly before midnight in Monroe. Robbery is the suspected motive, police say.

Sheerer and Knotts were arrested as they walked out the back of a residence at the Willow Oaks Apartments on Walkup Avenue in Monroe, Gay said. They were taken into custody without incident. Police say the apartment is the residence of one suspect’s girlfriend.

Police have not identified the victims.

While police tried to develop leads in the case Wednesday evening, Wingate University officials scrambled to protect students and staff. They declared a lockdown, then moved some students to the LaVerne Dining Hall, which has restricted access.

Parents and friends kept in touch with the situation via a series of Twitter and Facebook posts by university officials.

The series of events began about 5:45 p.m., when a Union County sheriff’s deputy who was headed out of Wingate on East Wilson Street was flagged down by a motorist. The man said he saw a car stopped in the middle of the road near Burris Street. That is a short distance east of the edge of the campus, near Wingate’s softball and baseball fields.

The deputy found a man collapsed in the road near the car and discovered the man had been shot. Minutes later, another motorist reported seeing a man lying on Zeb Goodman Road, near the entrance to Wingate University Lake nearby. When deputies arrived there, they found two shooting victims.

The man found on East Wilson Street and one of the victims on Zeb Goodman Road were dead, police said.

“One of the men was still alive, and he was airlifted to Carolinas Medical Center,” Gay said. There was no word on his condition Thursday morning.

While all this was taking place, Wingate University officials were in action. They issued a lockdown shortly before 6:15 p.m., with law enforcement officers providing extra security.

As word of the shootings spread, some parents worried from afar. One mother issued a Facebook post, saying she wished her son would answer his phone.

“Most of the students were moved into the dining hall, because it’s a secure place,” one university employee, not wishing to be identified, said Thursday morning. “People were concerned, but there was no panic. It was very smooth.”

Some students and staff remained in classrooms, finishing their end-of-semester exams.

At 8:30 p.m., the lockdown was lifted. “Thank God,” one student posted on the university’s Facebook page.

It was the second lockdown on Wingate’s campus in a month. On Nov. 15, a student reported seeing an argument outside her dormitory and saw what she thought was a gun. The campus went on lockdown, but officials said they believe no gun was on campus.

“I’ve been at Wingate for 22 years, and we’ve had two lockdowns in that time,” university President Jerry McGee said Thursday. “Unfortunately, they have both occurred in the last three weeks. In both instances, the lockdown orders were given as a precautionary measure.”

Gay said Wingate police got help from the Sheriff’s Office, Monroe police and the SBI. Evidence led them to the Willow Oaks Apartments in Monroe, where the arrests were made about six hours after the shooting.

“Through good communication and teamwork, we were able to quickly get two dangerous criminals off the streets,” Gay said.

He said Sheerer and Knotts each faces charges of two counts of first-degree murder, one count of attempted first-degree murder, and one count of attempted robbery with a dangerous weapon. Gay said the two suspects also confessed to breaking into several homes in Union County.

Lyttle: 704-358-6107; Twitter: @slyttle

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