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Man Opens Fire in Downtown of S.C. City

March 30, 2006

BENNETTSVILLE, S.C. (AP) _ A man opened fire with an automatic weapon Wednesday in the downtown of this small city, wounding a police officer before he was shot and killed by police.

Bobby Brown Jr. died a little more than an hour after he was shot, Coroner Tim Brown said.

The gunfire erupted, one witness said, after Brown parked near the county courthouse, climbed on his car and began to tear up some papers. When a deputy arrived, Brown took out his gun.

``He was right in front of the courthouse. You just heard all these pops,″ said Linda Rogers, wife of the town’s mayor.

County Auditor Gene Moore watched the shooting unfold on the busy street from his courthouse office.

``It was almost like he wanted someone to shoot him,″ Moore said. ``If he wanted to massacre a lot of people, he could have.″

Moore said the man started shooting slowly in a circle, then appeared to flip the weapon to automatic as officers began to return fire.

The suspect then jumped in his car and drove off, Moore said. Then he saw the man run around from the rear side of the courthouse, firing more shots and being chased by officers.

A police car cut the suspect off and when he turned toward the officers chasing him, he was shot, Moore said.

Police Chief Larry McNeil said an investigator was wounded in the hand and was hospitalized in good condition.

Investigators don’t know why Brown decided to start shooting, McNeil said.

After the shooting, bullet holes were seen in a number of buildings. Dan McNiel, sports editor at the Marlboro Herald-Advocate, whose office is downtown, said he saw at least 30 bullet casings along two blocks.

Friends and family gathered Wednesday night at Brown’s home a little more than a mile from the courthouse.

A woman identified as Brown’s mother cried and said she didn’t know what caused her son to start shooting. She declined to give her name and the others politely asked a reporter to leave.

Bennettsville, the seat of Marlboro County, is in eastern South Carolina, about 10 miles south of the North Carolina line.

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