Suspect arrested after man shot and killed at Lancaster Speedway during Saturday night race
A 53-year-old man was found with multiple gunshot wounds
LANCASTER, S.C. (WBTV) - The Lancaster County Sheriff’s Office is investigating a homicide that took place during a crowded race at Lancaster Motor Speedway on Saturday night.
Around 10:53 p.m. during the last race of the Steven Johnson Memorial Race, deputies responded to a shooting just inside the front gate near the ticket office.
Rodney Cunningham, 53, of Heath Springs, S.C., was found with multiple gunshot wounds and began receiving aid from officials. He was transported to the hospital where he was pronounced dead.
Deputies said a large crowd was on hand for the races at the speedway and patrol deputies arrived quickly and began interviewing witnesses at the scene.
On Sunday morning, deputies said a suspect was located and arrested following an extensive manhunt. Bryan Mitchell, 37, of Rock Hill was arrested and charged with murder and possession of a firearm during the commission of a violent crime.
Mitchell was identified as the suspect following the shooting but was unable to be located. Around 3 a.m., Mitchell entered the Scotchman Store at Charlotte Highway and Shiloh Unity Road. When deputies arrived, he had already left. At 5 a.m., he was spotted along Charlotte Highway just north of the new bridge construction and fled into the woods.
Officers then set up a perimeter and request assistance from other agencies. Mitchell was spotted at the construction site of the Roselyn housing development. When K9 units closed in, he was spotted by an investigator and taken into custody around 9:50 a.m. He was transported to the Lancaster County Sheriff’s Office and will be jailed in the Lancaster County Detention Center.
Mitchell’s motive for the shooting is unknown. It is also unknown whether Mitchell and the victim were acquainted. The investigation will continue.
“By the time Mitchell was taken into custody, we had 60-plus officers and K-9 units on the ground and a helicopter in the air,” Sheriff Faile said. “Mitchell had nowhere to go. I appreciate the vital information provided by the witnesses at the racetrack last night which allowed us to identify Mitchell within minutes of the shooting. I also want to thank the agencies which sent us resources which quickly brought this manhunt to an end without injury to anyone. The level of cooperation and professionalism exhibited by everybody who played a part in this investigation and search is commendable.”
On Facebook, the Lancaster Motor Speedway posted about the incident.
“I know everyone knows what happened at the race tonight, all I ask is that everyone keep that person family in your thoughts and prayers,” they wrote.
A person at the race said that about 800 people were there on Saturday night. Another man, Brad Basselman, planned to make the race, but had to cancel at the last minute.
“It was a very scary thought thinking about, what could’ve happened,” Basselman said. “Just terrible. You feel horrible.”
For many in the area, safety became an important concern in the aftermath of the shooting.
“The scariest part with us just bringing the kids down here,” Basselman said. “I don’t want them to have that fear instilled in them that any place they go now in a new state, they have to worry about something like this happening.”
Shalana Harris, who was working at a nearby business when the shooting happened, echoed similar concerns.
“It’s never happened that close to me so it’s just crazy,” she said. “You know I’m here six, seven days a week, all the time, so it was just a little uncomfortable.”
While there’s no denying the tragedy that happened at the speedway on Saturday night, Basselman said he’s not going to let the incident dictate his decisions.
“I’ve seen some families saying they wouldn’t be attending...we still want to go, we still want to support the track, we’re still big racing fans.”
The next scheduled event at the speedway is September 3.
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