ATLANTA (AP) — An elderly man opened fire on a woman after her car came into contact with his motorized wheelchair at a central Georgia service station, authorities said Wednesday. She died shortly afterward at a hospital despite the efforts of a crowd of people to aid her.
Police said Linda Hunnicutt, 65, was driving onto the gas pump bay of the service station in Macon at about 1 p.m. Tuesday when her Buick Lucerne and the motorized wheelchair bumped. Hunnicutt stepped out of her vehicle, and the man in the motorized wheelchair pulled a handgun and fatally shot her, city police spokeswoman Jami Gaudet said.
"The whole encounter, I can tell you, was very brief," Gaudet said. "Everybody is just reeling from this."
The suspect, 73-year-old Frank Louis Reeves, was apprehended in the gas station parking lot. He made a brief court appearance Wednesday, and authorities said he was being held without bond on a murder charge at the Bibb County Jail. Gaudet did not know whether Reeves had an attorney, and jail records do not list one.
A witness, Melissa Whisby, a former state corrections officer, told The Associated Press that she stopped at the gas station right before the shooting. She said she saw Reeves back behind Hunnicutt's car, and that Hunnicutt then got out of her car and walked around to where Reeves was.
"I looked down for a minute and when I looked back she was in a kneeling position," Whisby said, adding that Hunnicutt then slid slowly to the ground and did not move. "I was like, 'Something is wrong.'"
Whisby parked her car and went to help, thinking initially that Hunnicutt was having a seizure. People who gathered placed Hunnicutt on her back and that's when they noticed blood on her chest. She said no one heard the gunshot.
As a group was working to apply pressure to the wound, someone asked who shot her. Whisby said Reeves, who sat in his wheelchair, told them Hunnicutt had tried to hit him with her car.
"It was just horrific. We were working on her the whole time, trying to give her CPR," Whisby said.
As Reeves spoke, Whisby said, "I just blocked that part out. I was too busy trying to help her. We were so focused on her that we didn't even hear the police cars."
Whisby said Wednesday she was still struggling to understand everything she witnessed.
'I thought about it all night, all day and all night. Is this really real?" Whisby said. "How can somebody just take someone's life like that and not show any emotion?"
Police have described the encounter between the victim and the suspect as random.
Hunnicutt, described as a homemaker who lives a few miles from the station, was shot once in the chest with a .38-caliber handgun, Bibb County Coroner Leon Jones said.
Reeves made a brief appearance Wednesday in Magistrate Court in Macon, and the judge set a Dec. 19 hearing, according to local news reports. Reeves, wearing an orange jumpsuit, was brought to the courtroom in a wheelchair.
Reeves lives behind the service station in one of a cluster of apartments, Jones said. No one answered a phone number listed for the residence on Wednesday, and a family member declined comment when reached by phone.
The gas station is along busy Gray Highway, and the encounter was so brief that many of the customers pumping gas were not immediately aware of what had just happened in one corner of the lot, Gaudet said.
When police arrived, Hunnicutt was in cardiac arrest and officers began performing CPR. She was taken to the Medical Center of Central Georgia, where the trauma team pronounced her dead at 1:25 p.m., less than a half-hour after the shooting.
The suspect gave a statement to detectives, Gaudet said, but authorities are not revealing what he said. Meanwhile, police were asking for the public's help in identifying additional eyewitnesses.
Hunnicutt is married, and her husband was on the road for his job with a dental lab company when the shooting happened, officials said.
Jones, who has been with the coroner's office for 22 years, said he can't recall a case such as this in the city about 80 miles southeast of Atlanta.
Said Jones: "I've never seen anything like it."
Whisby, the eyewitness, said people did what they could to try to aid the victim.
"It did not do any good, but I hope her family knows that there were some strangers there who were very concerned and trying to help her and praying for her to make it," Whisby said.