AUBURN, Ala. — Residents described moments of confusion and terror as a gunman fired on authorities Sunday at an Alabama mobile home park that is primarily home to college students and young couples.
Residents on Tuesday said Arrowhead Park had been quiet and safe prior to the shooting that left one officer dead and two others wounded. The suspect, 29-year-old Grady Wayne Wilkes, is an Alabama National Guard member. He appeared in court for an initial hearing Tuesday.
“It’s a harmonious kind of place,” said Tom Cordi, the owner of the park. “It’s baffling.”
After Dylan Edwards, 25, heard the gunshots, he stepped outside his trailer to investigate. He ran into an officer, who said, “There’s a lunatic with an AR and armor on, y’all get inside.” The officer’s voice was trembling. “You could tell he was scared,” Edwards said.
Tammy Klinton said she initially thought the gunshots were celebratory. But then she and her boyfriend saw an officer with a gunshot wound running down a hill.
Klinton said her boyfriend went to help the officer, but was told to get inside immediately.
A tow truck removes a police car from a mobile home park, Monday, May 20, 2019, in Auburn, Ala., where three police officers were shot late Sunday. Authorities say a man opened fire on police responding to a domestic call late Sunday, killing one officer and wounding two others. (Blake Paterson/AP)
Elizabeth Daniel, an Auburn student and resident of the park, barricaded herself in her bedroom. She turned off the lights, placed a curtain rod against her door and grabbed a toy foam bat for protection.
In an email to residents, Cordi said he had never had the “slightest hint of a problem” with Wilkes, who lived there.
Wilkes was arrested Monday on charges of shooting the three Auburn police officers after they responded to a domestic disturbance call late Sunday.
Veteran officer William Buechner was killed. Authorities said the other officers, Webb Sistrunk and Evan Elliott, are expected to recover.
Investigators haven’t said what prompted the shootings, only that officers came under fire when they arrived.
Wilkes was arrested about nine hours after the shooting, following an overnight manhunt. He is charged with capital murder and a prosecutor indicated he would seek the death penalty, but court records show he doesn’t yet have a lawyer to speak on his behalf. A judge could appoint one during the hearing.
Wilkes also is charged with attempted murder for allegedly shooting the two officers who were wounded and strangling someone during the domestic disturbance that resulted in officers being called.
This undated photo provided by the Auburn Police Department shows Officer William Buechner, who was killed while responding to a domestic disturbance report on Sunday, May 19, 2019. (Auburn Police Department via AP)
Wilkes has been a member of the Alabama National Guard since 2010 and was the leader of an infantry fire team, or combat unit, said Lt. Col. Tim Alexander, a Guard spokesman.
A public alert sent out after the officers were shot described the suspect as wearing camouflage body armor and a helmet. Authorities haven’t said whether any such gear might be linked to military service.
Records don’t reflect any overseas deployments by Wilkes, Alexander said, and additional details about his service record were not immediately available.