TAR HEEL, N.C. (WECT) - Two people were injured in a shooting at Smithfield Foods in Tar Heel early Thursday morning.
According to the Bladen County Sheriff’s Office, both are employees of the plant and were shot in the administrative building around 12:14 a.m. The shooter, who was a sanitation contractor at the plant, fled the scene and later surrendered to deputies.
The two victims, Michelle Hernandez and Anthony Ratley, were flown by helicopters to Chapel Hill and New Hanover Regional Medical Center for treatment of their injuries. They are in stable condition at this time, according to the sheriff’s office.
The suspect Jaquante Hakeem Williams, 20, of St. Pauls was arrested and charged with two counts of attempted first-degree murder and is being held in the Bladen County Jail under no bond.
Bladen County Sheriff James A. McVicker said Williams and Ratley, prior to the shooting, had an ongoing dispute that lasted approximately two to three weeks following a fight in a bathroom at the plant. McVicker said as the men passed each other in a stairwell Thursday morning, words were exchanged which prompted Williams to allegedly pull out his gun and fire five shots.
McVicker said Hernandez was an innocent bystander who was in the wrong place at the wrong time.
The plant was evacuated after the shooting. Employees were allowed to return to work after Williams was taken into custody in a wooded area behind the plant. McVicker said an employee who knew Williams made contact with him and encouraged Williams to surrender.
“We were just very fortunate to apprehend the suspect as soon as we did and that no other persons were injured," said McVicker. “Our hearts and prayers go out to the victims and their families and we wish them a speedy recovery.”
Smithfield Foods, Inc. issued the following statement regarding the shooting at the Tar Heel plant:
“We are shocked and saddened by the senseless shooting that took place at our Tar Heel, North Carolina, processing facility overnight. Our thoughts and prayers are with our two Smithfield Family members who suffered serious injuries and were taken by life flight to hospitals, their families and loved ones”
Smithfield Foods officials added that the security and safety of their employees are their top priority and that they will provide assistance to all team members directly and indirectly impacted by the incident. They also will continue to work closely with authorities.
Kyle Narron, vice president of operations for Smithfield Foods, said during a news conference that the plant does not have metal detectors and firearms are not allowed at the facility. Narron said there’s only one employee entrance and it has turnstiles with security officers present. Only clear bags are allowed in the facility which are checked by security.
He was unsure where the shooter entered the building or how he brought a firearm into the facility.
Narron said that Smithfield Foods will have a full evaluation of its security program as a result of Thursday morning’s shooting.