GOLDSBORO (AP) — Police said Tuesday they were investigating the fatal shooting of a gay community college worker as a possible hate crime.
The shooting victim, 44-year-old campus print shop director Ron Lane, was gunned down by former student Kenneth Morgan Stancil III on Monday morning, police said. Lane dismissed Stancil from the print shop’s work-study program in March because he had too many absences.
Police have not released a motive in the shooting and said the men’s relationship was purely a supervisor-student one.
Lane’s supervisor at the college said Lane was gay, but police refused to say why a hate crime was being investigated.
“At this time, I’m not prepared to divulge that information,” Goldsboro police Sgt. Jeremy Sutton said at a news conference.
An expert who tracks hate groups said Stancil’s facial tattoo with the number “88” was a clear indication of a neo-Nazi, who have been accused of attacking gays. However, police have not said whether Stancil held white supremacist beliefs.
Police say the 20-year-old Stancil entered the Wayne Community College print shop where he used to work and fired once with a pistol-grip shotgun, killing Lane, his former supervisor, just as Lane was arriving for work. The shooting sparked a campus-wide lockdown as police stormed the building searching for Stancil, who immediately fled on a motorcycle. The manhunt lasted for nearly a day and ended with Stancil’s arrest on a Florida beach.
“Mr. Stancil had a calculated plan,” Sutton said.
After the shooting, police found the motorcycle abandoned in a median on Interstate 95 in Lumberton, North Carolina, about 80 miles south of Goldsboro, where the college is located.
Police figured Stancil was headed south and alerted law enforcement along the East Coast. After releasing a photo of Stancil with a facial tattoo he had gotten as recently as Saturday, police said people reported several sightings of him.
Mark Potok, of the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate groups, said Stancil’s tattoo indicated he was a neo-Nazis.
Early Tuesday, more than 500 miles from the school, a beach patrol officer found Stancil sleeping on a beach with a knife, authorities said. Police don’t know how he got there.
“Our officer did a well-being check on the subject and woke him up,” Tamra Marris, a spokeswoman for Volusia County Beach Safety Ocean Rescue said in an email. “Initially the subject had a knife on him and was ordered to put the knife down. The subject complied with the officer’s orders and the subject was apprehended without incident.”
Police have not found the 12-gauge shotgun they believe was used to kill Lane.
Goldsboro police and the Wayne County district attorney’s office will work to have Stancil extradited to North Carolina to face charges. His first court appearance in Florida was scheduled for Tuesday afternoon.
Stancil had no criminal record before the shooting, police said.
Brent Hood, coordinator of education support technology at the college, was Lane’s supervisor for the past three years. He said he didn’t think Lane was killed because he was gay.
“I guess from my point of view, he (Stancil) was angry over getting dismissed from his duties,” Hood told The Associated Press. “If he had other reasons or motives, it was not clear when he worked here. He worked very well with Ron; he worked very well with my other employees.”
Hood said Lane’s partner of 12 years had disappeared in July and his remains were found several months later. Police said Chuck Tobin killed himself.
“When I made the announcement across the employee email that Chuck had been found, he (Lane) said he was OK with me saying Chuck was his partner for 12 years,” Hood said. “The administration was a little concerned. But Ron wanted it to be said that way.”
Meanwhile, students returned to class at the college Tuesday.
“It’s a day of healing. We will be paying personal tributes to Ron Lane,” school spokeswoman Tara Humphries said.