A 23-year-old Greenville man was behind the deaths of two Hollingsworth plant security guards and his stepfather before he opened fire outside the Greenville County Law Enforcement Center on Monday night, blasting the doors with a shotgun and seriously injuring one police officer, authorities said Tuesday.
The man, identified by the Coroner’s Office as Evan Casey Bennett of 18 Augusta Court, then turned the gun on himself, said Greenville Interim Police Chief Mike Gambrell.
At a press conference Tuesday, Gambrell laid out a chain of events investigators believe started when two guards were found dead at the vacant Hollingsworth on Wheels facility on Laurens Road early Friday.
Autopsy results from the coroner showed that one guard, Richard Thomas Ellison, 53, of Greenville, died from shotgun wounds to the head and abdomen.
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A second guard, Bobby Wayne Wood, 65, of Pelzer, was shot in the head, said Greenville County Sheriff Steve Loftis.
Authorities at the time said a newspaper carrier found their bodies outside the guard house just after 3:30 a.m. Friday.
Deputies spent the day searching the 60-acre property but didn’t have any suspects, authorities said.
Loftis said authorities believed the incident posed no threat to the public since the bodies were found “so early in the morning” that K9 units were able to do an immediate search of the area.
“We did not see any danger,” he said.
Three days later, Greenville police responded to a homicide at a home on Augusta Court and believed that the suspect in that shooting was connected to the deaths at the Hollingsworth plant, Loftis said.
The victim was identified as Bennett’s stepfather, 58-year-old Gregory Thomas Jones. Jones was pronounced dead on the scene at 9:40 p.m. Monday from two shotgun blasts to the face, Gambrell said.
Bennett left the house armed with a 12-gauge shotgun, handgun and knife, Gambrell said.
He said Bennett told his mother that “the war was just beginning.”
He said detectives were collecting evidence and had found a badge belonging to one of the security guards in Bennett’s room when a call for backup came from inside the LEC about shots being fired.
Gambrell said Tuesday that Bennett shot two rounds into the locked doors of the lobby when he wasn’t able to get in, then fled toward the parking lot.
Gambrell said a Greenville officer pulled up “within moments,” but didn’t see the gunman who was kneeling behind a patrol car.
He said the officer was shot twice in the side and once in the forearm before managing to fire one round at the shooter.
“That’s the only round that was fired from law enforcement during the entire incident,” he said.
Bennett then took cover and shot himself in the head with the shotgun, Gambrell said.
The officer, a five-year veteran on the force, was out of surgery and in serious but stable condition at the hospital Tuesday night. Gambrell said his name isn’t being released out of respect for the family.
Gambrell said the shooting had “all the symptoms of suicide by cop.” Bennett, he said, came to the LEC “on a mission.”
The investigation into the two homicides is ongoing, but so far authorities said they believe Bennett acted alone at the Hollingsworth plant, which shuttered in 2009.
Authorities said the security guards must have been killed at around 11 p.m. Aug. 28 in the middle of a shift change.
Wood had worked at the plant since 1967 and Ellison since 1998.
“It appears to be nothing more than a very unfortunate, senseless, thrill killing,” Loftis said.