Man Credits Wanted Doctor for Saving His Life

Dr. Joseph Arena
Dr. Joseph Arena

CLINTON, S.C. -- A shooting on the campus of a college nearly 300 miles from Wilmington has made an impact on a community in the Port City.

Detectives say a professor saw Dr. Joseph Arena acting strangely on the campus of Presbyterian College and called police. Arena then scuffled with an officer, shot at him and missed. Then he turned the gun on himself.

Police had been searching for Arena since Tuesday. That's when they say the emergency room physician tried to kill his wife. They say he tried to strangle her and left her to die on the driveway in front of their home in the Middle Sound Loop area.

"It just strikes me as two totally different people because the compassion that he shows, or showed, when he was dealing with patients compared to what happened, it's like Jekyll and Hyde," says Clayton Bryant.

Bryant says Arena saved his life in 2001 when he had a medical emergency and went to Pender Memorial Hospital.

"I feel like I will always owe him a debt of gratitude for that, but I can't say thank you now."

Arena's next door neighbor tells WECT he wishes Arena would have just come home and gotten some help."

"If he came, knocked at our door, we would have told him to come on in and let's talk about it, and call a lawyer, somebody with some knowledge of what to do. But it didn't work out that way," says David Register.

Detectives tell us Arena stole the truck he was driving from a house in Pender County. They say the gun he shot himself with was one of the guns he stole from inside that house.

An autopsy will confirm how Arena died but his death leaves many questions unanswered. What happened that made the respected doctor so violent? What brought him to a college campus so far from home.

Reported by Kacey Gaumer