Saturday, October 29, 2011
James S. Gillette Jr.
COLUMBIA CTY, Ga. -- A shooting at a crowded party has left one person dead and investigators searching for several suspects.
Deputies were called to the Belair Conference Center on Jimmie Dyess Parkway just before midnight Saturday evening. They found several hundred people inside attending a party.
Several fights broke out and the DJ stopped the music to ask people to leave, Columbia County Capt. Steve Morris said in an e-mail Sunday.
Dispatchers also told News 12 they received several 911 calls from people reporting fights at the location and could hear screaming in the background.
"We saw all the lights," witness Leroy Pete told News 12's Cleo Greene. He was staying at a hotel right across from the center, but said no adults were present at the party.
"I thought it was a fight, I didn't know it was shooting," he said.
As people started leaving, witnesses say a man named "DQ" was threatening to start shooting in the parking lot. Several shots were heard and party employees asked people to come back inside for their safety.
19-year-old James S. Gillette Jr. of Augusta collapsed inside the front entrance as he walked inside, Morris said.
Family members tell News 12 Gillette was working at the conference center during the party and was trying to get guests into the building. He was pronounced dead at MCG Health and an autopsy is scheduled for Sunday or Monday.
"He was there doing his job he was not a part of this," Annettea Mills said about her nephew. "My nephew tried to save those children, and he ended up getting shot in the stomach and he died on the scene."
About a minute later, more shots were heard in the parking lot, Morris said. Witnesses told News 12 they heard three "pops" and started running.
At least two ambulances left the scene with patients inside.
More than eight police cars were at the center and deputies used crime scene tape to seal off the area between several hotels and a Waffle House.
Investigators believe there were multiple shooters and they left the scene in at least two cars. Deputies were looking for a blue or dark gray minivan with two donut spares on the rear tires along with a silver Toyota or Impala with a broken passenger window covered with a white trash bag also with a donut spare on a rear tire.
The victim's aunt has a message. "Stop shooting each other ... you're killing good kids," Mills said.