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Gunman Kills Three, Wounds Two in Small-Town Grocery Slaying

June 8, 1993

WINDSOR, N.C. (AP) _ A man who said he was a former police officer with nothing to lose herded six people to the back of a grocery store, stacked them by twos and began shooting and stabbing. Three people were killed and two badly hurt.

The one person who wasn’t hurt in Sunday’s attack at the Be-Lo grocery store was on the bottom of a stack, said Bertie County Sheriff Wallace Perry.

″He was lucky,″ Perry said Monday. ″He felt the trauma when the man on top of him was shot.″

Police said the motive was robbery, and that about $3,000 was taken. They were searching for a 20- to 30-year-old man.

The attacker, armed with a .45-caliber pistol, told his captives ″he had nothing to lose, he was a former police officer, he had been fired,″ Perry said.

An all-points bulletin prompted calls from police departments around the nation with information about recent firings, and Perry said former local officers had been ruled out as suspects.

Police also were pursuing other leads, including a report that a small white car with Maryland plates was seen speeding north on U.S. 17 shortly after the attack.

Windsor, a northeast North Carolina town of 2,400, is the center of commerce for a surrounding farm community.

According to police, the gunman entered the store after it closed at 6 p.m., forced the six to the rear and made one tie up the others with duct tape and dog leashes taken from the shelves.

After the shootings, he placed the six people back on the floor face-down in a puddle of blood, Perry said.

Jasper Hardy Jr., of Edenton, who wasn’t hurt, told the man he couldn’t identify him. Perry said the gunman replied: ″ ‘I’m going to let you live, big man.’ ″

Killed were cashier Joyce Coburn Reason, 36, of Windsor; manager Grover Lee Cecil Jr., 47, of Ayden; and cleaning-crew member Johnnie Rankins Jr., 48, of Edenton. Ms. Reason and Cecil were shot once in the head and Rankins was shot in the back.

Cleaning-crew workers Thomas E. Hardy, 48, of Edenton and Sylvester Welch Jr., 40, of Hertford, were hospitalized in critical condition. Hardy’s throat was slashed and a butcher knife was broken off in his back. Welch, who was shot in the back, managed to crawl to a store phone and call police.

Ms. Reason, the mother of twin girls, was a frequent customer at Designer Plant Exhibit, a shop across the street from Be-Lo.

″Yesterday she said she wanted a pretty hanging basket and the next thing we knew she was dead,″ shop employee Ross Bond said.

As police searched for the killer, Perry said several people requested permits to carry concealed weapons.

Restaurant owner J.W. Russell acknowledged he was nervous.

″I wasn’t too happy thinking about walking into an empty building today with the money box,″ he said.