TAR HEEL, NC (WWAY) — Two employees were injured in a shooting at the Smithfield Foods processing facility in Tar Heel early Thursday morning.
According to Bladen County Sheriff Jim McVicker, a security guard reported an active shooter situation at approximately 12:14 a.m.
Multiple law enforcement agencies including the Bladen County Sheriff’s Office, Bladenboro Police Department, North Carolina State Highway Patrol and Brunswick County Sheriff’s Office Air Unit responded to the facility at 15855 N.C. Highway 87.
Investigators say the shooting occurred in a stairwell in the administrative building.
“My understanding is he left and came out of the building from another entrance,” McVicker said. “Came out of the building, then talked to some employees and he came back in the building, and then he got scared and fled and went to the woods.”
Two victims were airlifted from the scene to regional medical centers.
Authorities said five shots were fired.
“I tell you, this world we live in today, I would never think something like this would happen in Bladen County. But it did. This world is changing every day,” McVicker said.
Anthony Ratley, was flown via a UNC Air Care helicopter to UNC Medical Center in Chapel Hill where he underwent surgery at 3:45 a.m.
Michelle Hernandez was airlifted via an AirLink helicopter to New Hanover Regional Medical Center in Wilmington.
The sheriff’s office said the suspect left the scene after the shooting. A person who knew the suspect made contact with him and he surrendered to Bladen County deputies.
“Of course he as afraid to do it at first and they kept talking to him and he finally surrendered without incident,” McVicker said. “He came out of the woods with his hands up. We were just very fortunate to apprehend the suspect as soon as we did and that no other persons were injured.”
Jaquante Hakeem Williams, 20, of St. Pauls was arrested and charged with two counts of attempted first-degree murder. He is being held in the Bladen County Jail without bond.
Jaquante Williams, described as an employee of a third-party vendor associated with the plant, was arrested in the woods just outside the hog processing plant. He was reportedly dressed in all black when he was taken into custody. He has been working at the plant as a sanitation contractor for about a year.
The shooting stemmed from a weeks-long dispute between Williams and the male victim, according to McVicker. Williams was assaulted in an altercation several weeks ago.
“It was a disagreement between him and the male victim that got shot,” he said. “And the female victim just happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time. She had absolutely nothing to do with this.”
Smithfields Foods released a statement following the shooting.
“The safety and security of our employees is a top priority, and the facility was immediately evacuated in accordance with our previously established protocol,” said Keira Lombardo, an executive vice president for Smithfield Foods.
Once the suspect was in custody, employees were allowed to return back to work.
“We are shocked and saddened by the senseless shooting that took place at our Tar Heel, North Carolina, processing facility overnight,” Lombardo said. “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.”