By Catharin Shepard • Staff writer • A “parent’s worst nightmare” unfolded when children practicing softball nearby witnessed a shootout that killed two people and injured a third Monday night. The apparently drug-related shooting started at the county sports complex on Red Springs Road.
Nakoya Maynor, 25 and Zyrique Grace, 22 were shot and killed, according to the Hoke County Sheriff’s Office. The third victim, whose name has not been released, was taken to a hospital. His condition was not immediately available.
The shooting started near the splash pad – a water feature playground for children – at the county park located at 3195 Red Springs Road, Sheriff Dr. Hubert Peterkin said. Sheriff’s deputies responded to reports of the shooting around 7:11 p.m. Monday.
Two of the injured victims apparently left the scene in a vehicle and traveled to another location near Piney Bay Mobile Home Park on Shannon Road. While deputies were responding to the first call, they received another 911 call from near the mobile home park reporting two men suffering from gunshot wounds. When they responded to the 1300 block of Shannon Road, officers identified Maynor and Grace as the victims.
Detectives arrived at both locations and started the investigation. Authorities believe the shooting was related to drug activity, but didn’t provide specific details of what incited the gunfire.
“The investigation is ongoing and reveals it was drug related,” a press release from the sheriff’s office said.
Officers have not yet made any arrests in the triple shooting, but continue working the case. Law enforcement is seeking a suspect wanted on two counts of first-degree murder and one count of assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill inflicting serious injury.
Anyone with information about the shooting is asked to contact the Hoke County Sheriff’s Office at (910) 875-5111.
An AAU girls’ travel softball team was nearby on one of the sports fields holding practice when the shooting started, according to multiple accounts. None of the bystanders were reported injured, but a parent said they were shaken by what they witnessed.
Courtney Lavier of Cumberland County was watching her daughter’s softball practice Monday night, just as she has for the past two months that the team has held practices at the park. She noticed first one, then another car pull into the parking lot. Then the shooting started.
“We heard the first shot and the first shot sounded like firecrackers or fireworks, so we didn’t think anything of it,” Lavier recalled.
But then more gunfire erupted, and they realized what was going on. The girls and their parents dove for cover.
“That’s when we all rushed and dropped to the ground,” she said.
The gunfire went on for what Lavier said was about three minutes, before the cars drove out of the parking lot. Bullets continued flying even as the cars left the park.
“As they were driving off they were still shooting,” Lavier said.
Law enforcement was on the scene almost immediately afterwards. Lavier said she was impressed by how quickly first responders arrived.
“They responded so fast to that call,” she said.
Lavier described the incident as the worst experience she’s ever dealt with, and a “parent’s worst nightmare.” The children were not hurt physically, but are suffering from what they witnessed.
“All the girls are very shaken up. They had nightmares. They’re still hearing gunshots. Some of them don’t feel safe going back out there to practice,” she said.
The team does plan to return to the sports complex for their usual practice, though they hope to see additional security there in the future.
Hoke County Manager Letitia Edens said a Hoke County Parks and Recreation cheerleading team was also at the park when the shooting happened. The splash pad was open Monday but typically closes at 7 p.m., and staff members were in the process of shutting it down for the evening around that time.
The sports complex is open to the public and operates on a first-come, first-served basis, so county staff don’t know exactly how many people were on the grounds when the shooting occurred. Lavier estimated the softball team had about 25-30 youth and adults present.
The park closed while deputies were at the scene, but has since reopened to the public. The Parks and Recreation department is working on plans to provide support for the youth who witnessed the shooting. County officials may also talk with the sheriff to discuss safety measures at the park, Edens said.
“We’re going to do everything we can to keep the public safe,” she said Tuesday.
Obituaries and funeral plans for the deceased were not available by News-Journal press deadline Tuesday.